Praying for Elders

This past Sunday I spend a considerable part of my sermon teaching on the Biblical role, qualifications, and Lake Wylie Baptist’s need for elders. In the coming weeks, I’ll be authoring a series of blogs to help teach you more about this crucial need in our church, and how God’s Word teaches us to understand and establish elders in the church. For now, I simply want to recap some of my main thoughts from Sunday’s sermon:

A FEW MAIN POINTS:

I. Jesus gives the church pastors to equip the members for ministry.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11,12)

In the coming years, God is going to give us more elders at LWBC. That term, elders, is one of three terms the New Testament uses interchangeably to refer to the office of pastor. Virtually every New Testament church was led by a plurality of Biblically qualified men called pastors, elders, or overseers.

II. Some elders (pastors) will be seminary trained, others will not.

Seminary training is valuable and because elders are called to defend doctrine, seminary training can be a great aid to that end. However, the Bible doesn’t require that a pastor have seminary training and therefore, as we add elders to the ministry over the coming years, we expect to have elders who have no formal theological training, yet who are able to defend the truth from Scripture.

III. Some elders will be paid staff members, others will serve as lay-elders.

In the New Testament, we see that churches had elders who were supported financially by the church while others were not.

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. (1 Timothy 5:17)

THE BOTTOM LINE: 

As God sends us more sheep to take care of in the flock of Lake Wylie Baptist, there will be a growing need for more equippers, more pastors. We aren’t in a rush to add elders, but we ought to be praying for them. A man need not be a professional, seminary-trained pastor to be an elder. He simply needs to live a life that helps equip members for ministry, and he needs to meet the Biblical qualifications founds in places like 1 Timothy 3. As God gives us more elders, they will work in concert with me as the Senior Pastor to help lead, teach, shepherd, and equip the church for the work of ministry. In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing to answer many more questions on the topic. If you have specific questions, I’d love to hear them so I can address them as well. 

To conclude, here are a series of questions I posed Sunday that you should be praying through and asking yourself over the next months and years. These questions will guide us to the very men that God is calling out to be elders. And if you are a man in the membership of Lake Wylie, I’d encourage you to ask these questions of yourself: 

Who do I see, working to equip the members of the church to do the work of ministry?

  • Who is always discipling others?
  • Who is teaching others the Bible?
  • Who do we see caring for the flock?
  • Who is it that is always praying for the sheep?
  • Who do we see leading the flock well in his area of ministry?

Do I see evidence of the qualifications of an elder in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 in his life?

  • Is he respectable?
  • Does he control himself?
  • Is he faithful to his wife?
  • Is he gentle with others?
  • Does he love money?

Our Own Tools

My dad loves working on engines. And, by extension, he loves his tools. I never once saw my dad put a tool away without wiping it off and storing it in its proper place.

In Lectures to My Students, C.H. Spurgeon wrote of ministers:

We are, in a certain sense, our own tools, and therefore must keep ourselves in order.

Ministers can only preach with their own voice. They can only reason with their own brain. They can only feel with their own heart. As much as I love my books, my fountain pens, my Logos study software, the greatest natural resource God has given me is my body.

Pastors, are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating well? Are you reading books, or are you training your mind? There is a difference. Ministry isn’t made for the body, but the body for ministry.

Communion Meditation: Seated at the Table

We do quite a bit of standing and sitting in our service. And I want you to know that we do it all for a reason.

Earlier in the service we all stood to hear an assurance of pardon. Think about what’s happening at that moment of the service. We’ve just confessed sin. We’ve come, as it were, into the courtroom of the cosmic judge and we’ve pleaded guilty to all the charges of breaking his law. And once guilt has been established in court, the defendant stands. We stand in order to hear the verdict of the judge.

Two things never change in God’s courtroom—our plea is always guilty—and God’s verdict in Christ is always that we’re pardoned if and only if we’ve placed our faith in him. 

But here, at Communion we always receive the bread and the cup seated. Why don’t we stand for communion? It seems like a solemn enough time. Wouldn’t it be better to stand? In short, no it wouldn’t. We don’t stand as we come to this table for the same reason that we don’t stand at Christmas dinner.

You’ve already stood and heard your sins forgiven. Now you sit, as a member of the judge’s family. He’s come down from the stand and taken his seat at the head of the table. And, this table is solemn only because it’s a shadow of the true table of joy and feasting in the coming kingdom.

This table is for sinners—but it is for repentant sinners who have come to lay their sins on Jesus by faith. If you have done that—then sit and enjoy the feast that Christ has prepared for you. And know that after a lifetime of eating only a cracker and a sip of juice—one day you will sit and eat and drink to your heart’s content.

So come, and welcome to the table of the king.

Exhortation: Love Jesus With Everything

EXHORTATION

The Christian faith isn’t just a faith of ideas. It’s also a faith of practices. And that’s because human beings aren’t just brains on sticks. There is more to us than our minds. We have bodies made up of hands, eyes, ears, and stomachs.

God isn’t just out to form your mind. He wants to conform every part of your body to the image of Christ. And one of the ways he does this is through the classic spiritual disciplines.

As Christians, you are believing Jesus with your eyes when you read the Bible. You are trusting him with your mouth when you pray. You are living out your faith then you listen to sermons. You are devoting your stomach to Jesus when you take the Lord’s Supper and when you choose to fast. You’re submitting to God with your schedule when you make a habit of meeting with his church every Lord’s Day. You love God with your hands when you greet a brother or sister in the Lord.

If the church will change our community, we can’t just be Christians in mind only. James tells us to love one another in word, and deed. Jesus tells us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

The spiritual disciplines are physical practices that remind us that our only hope in life and death is that we are not our own, but belong, both body and soul, to God. So, it’s not enough to just believe Christian things, we also have to practice Christian living. We have to learn to love God.

This reminds us of our need to confess sin, so let’s go to God now.

CONFESSION

Holy Father,

You have called us to love you with heart, soul, mind and strength. And we know that the blood of Jesus didn’t just save our souls… it saved even our bodies. 

And yet, we are guilty of holding back. We have not loved you with all our being. Father, we confess that we fool ourselves into thinking that you only care about what’s in our heart. That you don’t care about what our eyes see, our hands touch, or our ears hear.

We confess that we’ve kept back portions of our schedules and our wallet. There are fears that we are holding on to and there are hopes and dreams we have not submitted to your authority.

Father, we are sinners. And we humble ourselves before you. We want you to deal honestly with our sin. Please, Father, be gentle with us—but do not allow us to live in self-deception.

And we know that if we in the church say amen to this prayer while still holding back—this prayer will have no effect, and so we confess our individual sins silently to you now. Receive our prayers.

We ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:24

What is the Gospel?

What is the gospel? It’s such a simple question, but answering it correctly is essential to healthy church ministry. Simply put, the gospel is the news of what God has done to save sinners in the death burial and resurrection of Christ.

Tim Keller says, “All human problems are ultimately symptoms, and our separation from God is the cause.” (1)

So, let’s get this straight: racism, poverty, and homelessness are all symptomatic. None of them is the ultimate problem. The ultimate problem is that human beings are separated from God because of their sin.

And this means that the only thing that can rescue humanity is to be made right with God; to be reconciled to him. And here’s the rub: nothing we do can reconcile us to him. This means we can’t be saved by housing the homeless or feeding the hungry. A man cannot reconcile with his brother enough to get himself reconciled with God too.

I’m not saying those things are unimportant. I’m saying they are so important that we must defend a clear definition of the gospel because the moment we water the gospel down into social work is the moment any hope of mortifying racism and pushing back poverty vanishes. 

The center of Jesus’ first appearing wasn’t social justice, it was to come and bear the wrath of divine justice as a payment of sin. When Jesus Christ ascended there were still poor people in Jerusalem and Jewish-Gentile relations were strained. But, there wasn’t a single person who couldn’t be reconciled to God. Jesus did what he came to do. He came to reconcile us and, having ascended, he has given the ministry of reconciliation to his church.

So, where does doing social good factor into all of that? This is where we have to differentiate between the gospel (we can be reconciled to God through Christ) with the effects of the gospel (our new life in Christ makes us reconcile with our brother, feed the hungry, etc.). 

John tells us that Christians who claim to love God but hate their brother are lying, and this ought to cause us to consider whether we’ve believed in the true gospel if our lives remain unchanged. But, on the flip side, those who redefine the gospel along the lines of doing social justice have left the true gospel. In other words, they no longer believe in justification by faith alone. Now, justification is based on works. And once that happens to a church, put a fork in it. It’s done. 

So, let’s ingrain the true gospel so deep that nothing will dislodge it. Let’s preach Christ and him crucified so that sinners can be reconciled to God. And let’s not be those who claim to love God while hating our brother, or despising the poor.

(1) Keller, Timothy. Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (p. 29). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Family Worship

One of the great holes in our discipleship today is family worship. Husbands and Wives, Fathers and Mothers ought to lead their families to adore our Heavenly Father. God has made his desire for family worship clear enough:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, …You shall write them on the doorposts of your house

So, what then should family worship look like? How do you do it? Stick with this next sentence:

If the command is to love the Lord with all our being, then family worship should incorporate all of the appropriate forms of worship prescribed to us in the Bible. In other words, family worship is learning to love God within the home through:

  • Reading and Listening to His Word
  • Singing His Praise
  • Confessing Our Sins and Forgiving One Another
  • Offering Prayers to Him
  • Using Our Gifts to Serve One Another

As I’ve been learning more about the subject, I want to tell you how we do this at my house. After dinner, we gather in our living room. Dad, mom, kids. My children are all 6 years old and under so my expectations on their attention spans are quite low. We shoot for 10 minutes of family worship. Within those 10 minutes, I’ll include a couple elements of worship. Sometimes I’ll read from a children’s Bible and the kids will listen. Other times (when they have the wiggles) I have them act the story out. We almost always sing and currently, I close family worship by having them repeat the Lord’s Prayer after me.

I’d love to say this happens every single night without fail. That certainly is my aspiration. But, just like your family sometimes kids are worn out and falling asleep. Sometimes dad is tired and gives in to his own weakness.

God has called me to disciple my wife and the children under my roof. He hasn’t placed that burden primarily on the church I attend. When I stand before him on the last day he won’t turn to the children’s pastor to give an account of my children’s’ discipleship. If you are a husband or father, God places that responsibility primarily on you. (Ephesians 5:22-6:4) Wives and Mothers (especially single mothers) God has given you the responsibility and will equip you with the grace to do the same in the absence of a godly man in the home.

In the coming days, I’ll write posts on trustworthy resources that I like to use, questions I’m regularly asked about the subject, and a few other odds and ends. If you don’t currently observe family worship in the home let me encourage you to turn your Bible to Deuteronomy 6 and memorize verse 4-9. Let God’s command to you sink in and transform your leadership in the home.

Exhortation: Clean the House

One of the secrets to having a loving and peaceful family is regular repentance. Regular admission and confession of sins. Regular forgiveness.

Imagine two identical families. In each family, there’s a father and a mother. Both families have two children. Now imagine that these identical families live in two identical houses. Same square footage. Same layout. In both houses, you have the same number of dirty dishes, the same number of dirty clothes, and the same rooms to clean. But one of these houses is constantly in disarray while the other is relatively clean and put together. But it’s not because one family uses more cups, or changes clothes more often.

The difference is that in the clean house, whenever someone uses a cup they put it in the dishwasher, and whenever someone sees clothes in the hamper they run a load of laundry. In the other family, the father uses a cup, but he leaves it on the counter. The daughter changes clothes, but instead of putting her dirty clothes in the wash, she kicks them under the bed.

What’s the secret to the first family’s clean house? It’s not that they have fewer messes. It’s that they are constantly putting dirty things where they need to go, and they’re doing it right away. They don’t let filth build up.

Every family commits sin. Father’s sin against daughters. Son’s against mothers. But what is your family doing with its sin? Are you putting dirty sins where they belong? Don’t leave them sitting on the counter overnight. Don’t kick them under the bed. When you sin, tell it to the person you sinned against. Turn away from it and ask for forgiveness. Don’t just say, “I’m sorry.” Say, “I sinned against you. Will you forgive me?” If your family member has sinned and is asking for forgiveness, give it right away. Don’t just say, “It’s ok.” Say, “Yes, I forgive you.” Then, when sin is confessed and forgiven, the dish is cleaned—you can’t pull it back out to look at the dirt again.

“Confess your sins one to another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” 

Husbands, keep short accounts with your wives. Wives, keep short accounts with your husbands. Parents, keep short accounts with your children. Children, keep short accounts with your parents and your siblings. Clean your house.

(This exhortation is based on an illustration I once heard from Pastor Doug Wilson at Christ Kirk in Moscow, ID)