The Church

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.21.16

Deacons Bring Strength to Their Church     

 

The establishment of deacons is described in Acts 6:1-6

The role of deacon came in response to weakness in the church. The Greek speaking widows were receiving the same care as the Hebrew widows

The Apostles recognized that word ministry had to remain their top priority

They realized this problem must be addressed, but that they should not be distracted from word ministry to organize the solution.

The role they established to help this need was taken seriously v3

Deacons were not simply good church members who were available and willing

Everything that a church does represents Christ and his kingdom. All we do should have gospel priorities

The Apostles made the point in v3 that deacon work flows from the ‘Holy Spirit’ and requires biblical ‘wisdom’ 

The deacons were commissioned v6

The significance of this is that the seven were not just given a task to solve, they were given an ongoing ministry role in the church

The word “deacon” not used in Acts 6, but the intention seems clear

An ongoing role was established in Acts 6; and later we see the church has an office called deacon

If this was not the beginning of the deacon role, then the Bible has given the church an undefined office to fulfill

The title deacon is the Greek word for ‘servant’ – diakonos, which is used twice in Acts 6

v1 “widows were being neglected in the daily distribution (or deacon)

v2  “It is not right we give up preaching the word . . to serve (or deacon) tables”

We can see how the role established in Acts 6 soon became known as ‘deacon’

 

The role of deacon appears solidified in Philippians 1:1

Philippians 1:1 is the first time the word diakonos is clearly used as an official office in the church

Paul groups deacons with overseers which indicates the  prominence of their role in that church

 

Qualifications for deacon 1 Timothy 3:8-13

This list directly follows the list of qualifications for pastors in vs 1-7

Just as the qualifications for pastors focuses on godly character, so do the qualifications for deacons

The main difference in the two lists is that deacons are not required to be “able to teach”

Churches often view elder as a spiritual role and deacon as a practical role

Yes, it is true that elders have a word ministry focus, and deacons have a deed ministry focus

However, the point of the two lists in 1 Timothy 3 is clearly that both roles are spiritual

These are complimentary roles that together bless the church

Pastors/elders have authority over deacons based on:

(1)  Pastors are responsible for Word ministry which directs all that the church does

(2)  Pastors also called overseers, indicating their role of leading the church

(3)  Pastors are given significantly more emphasis in the New Testament

Like the office of pastor, the deacon role should be essentially unchanging

Like pastors, what deacons do in a church is what deacons in every church in every culture and age should do. Obviously some of the practices change with time, but the heart for being a deacon or a pastor are set by Scripture and should not be altered.

From the context of Acts 6, our view is that deacons are called to represent the church in caring for the sick, hurting and vulnerable within the local church

Like pastors, deacons are not responsible to do all the work, but coordinate all the church in it

v13 tells us that to be a deacon is blessed role

Deacons help make sure the church is unified demonstrating love in action and in putting works to our faith

Each church should honor its deacons and be grateful for their work before God

A faithful deacon is a blessing and a strength to their church!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.14.16

 Shepherds Care and Protect

Acts 20:28-30

by Paul Long

 

In Acts Ch 20, Paul calls for the pastors of the Ephesian church to give them some final instructions, as this will be the last time he will see them face to face.  His overall concern is how the church is protected and cared for.

 

Shepherding the flock begins with shepherding yourselves

In addressing these pastors, his first instruction is for them to watch themselves. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves. 

Paul will say the same thing to Timothy – 1 Tim 4:16.

Pastor – guard your heart, in the busyness of ministry don’t neglect your own soul.  Don’t get so caught up in pastoring people that you forget to pastor yourself.

Sadly, personal holiness of leaders is not often the standard by which we measure success in the church today.  It is possible for the pastor to have outward ministry success and have a personal and spiritual life that is not pleasing to God.

Personal watchfulness need to be applied to any type of leadership position in the church or in the home.

Your own personal holiness is the starting factor in parenting.

If you neglect your own soul – time with God in prayer, Bible reading, weeding out sinful actions and attitudes – then you are unable to shepherd your children well.

So, whether we are parents, pastors, small group leaders or Sunday school teachers, we are called to this type of vigilance and personal watchfulness is necessary because sin always starts small.

If we personally are not loving Jesus well, then we are not leading the well.

 

Shepherds are also called to watch each other.

Pastors are fellow sheep as much as they are pastors –  so we not only give care, but receive care as well.

 

The purpose of this watchfulness is care for the church  vs 28

A good shepherd is constantly scanning the flock looking for signs of danger so they can care for the flock well.

Overseers are those that have a spiritual alertness for souls under our care.

Watchfulness is driven by what we teach–feeding the flock is the pastors main responsibility, protecting and leading flow out of that.  1 Timothy 1:3, 1 Timothy 6:3-4, Titus 2:1

At Greentree the main avenue of protection and care is through small groups and membership.

Pastors can’t get close enough to everyone to truly know you so small group leaders serve as under shepherds.

The small group is the main channel of discipleship, protection and care.

Through membership we submit to a corporate watchfulness of one another as we open our lives up to the other members for the care of our soul.

We should take these responsibilities seriously and they should be very precious to us.

At times, we miss the precious value of what we are caring for.  v 28…to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

 Jesus is the Chief Shepherd who is so committed to his sheep that he died for them.

Jesus is the Chief Shepherd; he is the Chief Pastor & Overseer of our soul.

Pastors are those who are called to shepherd the church of God under the Chief Shepherd.

As pastors, we want to follow Jesus’ example of giving our lives for the sheep- that is the heart of pastoral ministry.

This was Paul’s example in his life.  Acts 20:18-24

Our agenda is to testify to the gospel of the Grace of God.

 

Shepherds protect the flock against threats both foreign and domestic  vs 29-30

The influences of culture is one of the main wolf attacks we face.

Not only do we face danger from the outside but also – dangers from inside.

Shepherds protect from disease within the flock.

NT letters full of examples of those that seek to twist truth and draw others away.  Titus 1:10-11, 3:10-11

 

The Blessings of Protection and Care of Godly Shepherds

 1.  Blessing that someone is keeping watch over your soul

 There is a blessing in knowing that someone is tasked with the job of caring for and protecting your very soul!

Consider the seriousness of how God has designed the church to work for your care and for your good, and thank God for the blessing of someone keeping watch over your soul.

 

2.  Blessing of following and promoting Godly leadership in the church

I thank God for the spiritual protection and care that He has given us here at Greentree.  We have been blessed with Godly leadership, shepherds who keep a close watch on themselves and on the flock and for that blessing we should thank God.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

How you relate to and respond to this command sets a major tone in the church.

 

3.  Blessing that someone is coming after you if you wander

The blessing of the protection and care of the church and of the shepherds God has put in place is that if you wander – someone is coming after you.  The protection is that you won’t wander too far without someone encouraging you to come back.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.07.16

Pastors Feed and Lead their Church

 

1 Peter 5:1-4

The title ‘pastor’ comes from the biblical picture of ‘shepherd’. Pastors fulfill their role as shepherds by Feeding, Leading, Protecting and Caring for the flock (we will look at the first two in this message). Understanding the pastors’ role helps guide our expectations of pastors and our responses to them

 

God calls pastors to feed his people

Feeding is essential to the biblical intention of shepherding

The KJV even translated “shepherd the flock” as “feed the flock”

In John 21 Jesus restores Peter who had denied him 3 times, with the 3-fold charge of “feed my lambs . . tend my sheep . . feed my sheep”

Feeding is our primary responsibility, leading and protecting flow out of it

The only food we have to feed God’s people is God’s Word  2 Timothy 3:16-17

God’s word needs to be continuously Exalted – it is to be honored as being “God-breathed”

God’s word needs to be continuously Loved – more than simply revered

God’s word needs to be fully Trusted – as the highest truth, and as completely sufficient for our lives

God’s word needs to be continuously applied – that is how it “profits” us

Our spiritual diet has to mature if we are to mature  Hebrews 5:12-14

v12 we must start with the basics and be firmly rooted in them

vs 13-14 but we should not stay there

To shepherd a congregation to fully health, the teaching diet must be healthy

Pastors need to challenge how we think; because we  don’t believe as fully as we think we do

We need to dig in more by reading and thinking more deeply

We saw in 2 Timothy 3 that pastoral teaching is not merely presenting info biblical truths are to transform and mobilize our lives

Word ministry is a serious responsibility  2 Timothy 4:1-4

Pause to digest the magnitude of this “charge” (v1)

Pastors dare not hold back by avoiding or minimizing God’s word

Listeners dare not push off what they don’t like, or receive it casually

 

God calls pastors to lead his people (v2)

Christians are people in motion, we are going somewhere

(1)  We are headed for life in a kingdom that is not of this world

(2)  We are being transformed into the image of Christ

Pastors ‘shepherd’ God’s people in the direction we are to be going  Ephesians 4:11-13

They are to help everyone under their care to become more like Christ, which includes engaging everyone in service to his kingdom

This is Challenging!      

If everyone is to participate in all that maturity requires, there need to be church programs and processes to guide them

If everyone is to participate, those who are lagging must be challenged in the areas where they need to move forward

Pastors answer to God in how we fulfill the role he has given  Hebrews 13:17

It is hard to stay fully and unyieldingly biblical; so it is important that congregations encourage their pastors to remain faithful and as they are faithful

How we lead is as important as the fact that we lead (vs 2-3)

Peter presents 3 contrasting ways pastors can serve

1.  Our Attitude is not to be as under compulsion (drudgery), but willingly for the gospel

2.  Our Motive is not to be shameful gain (money, notoriety, power), but eagerly serving Christ

3.  Our Approach is not to be domineering, but as examples of godliness. We cannot lead where we are not going

Any God-given authority or responsibility is built on God-shaped character (who we are), and desires (what we want)

There is mutual accountability in the church

How the pastors lead and how the congregation follows

“Submission to pastors is not subservience, it is living orderly under the leadership of the pastors”  Scott McKnight

The entire church must be abounding with gospel truths for one another to both correct and encourage

All of us are under the leading and care of the “Chief Shepherd” (v4)

We will never truly understand the church or have a healthy church, unless Christ is our exalted head

SERMON LEFTOVERS 10.24.16

God Gave Leaders to His Church

 

The New Testament uses 3 titles for those who lead the local church

(1)  Elder – this comes from the Old Testament title for the leaders of a community. Acts 11:30 is the first time it is used for church leaders

(2)  Overseer – first used in Acts 20:28. The title bishop came from this word and over time it became a higher office in the church

(3)  Shepherd – this word is used in Ephesians 4:11 and it is the basis for the commonly used title of “pastor”

Churches today may use these terms differently, but in the New Testament they are interchangeable

We see language representing all three titles in 1 Peter 5:1-4

Many churches have elders with the chief leader called pastor; but we don’t see this distinction in the New Testament

‘Pastor’ is probably the title used most often because it best fits the overall role

The essential role of the pastor is unchangeable. It is the ministry of the Word in teaching, leading and protecting

 

Biblical parameters for pastoral leadership

1.  It must be Qualified leadership (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

Notice there is only one skill required in this list which is “able to teach”

Word ministry is central to pastoral ministry, because it is what we lead from

This shows us that Word ministry must be central to all aspects of church life

Each member of the church fulfills their role through biblical faithfulness

The rest of the qualifications for pastors are character driven

Biblical truths are displayed by character

We don’t truly know biblical truths until we live out those truths

2.  Pastoral leadership is to be Male (1 Timothy 2:11-13)

This is seen by many as a proof that the Bible is outdated and misguided

But this is not an attack on women or a degrading of them

v11 actually contained a radical elevation of a woman’s role, since middle-eastern culture kept women from education

Paul was expanding how the Church looked at the worth and role of women

Yet, Paul does add what is “not permitted” v12

Galatians 3:28 tells us all believers are equal before God,

But here in v13 God has ordained an order of authority and submission

Submission is a dirty word in our culture. However, it is an essential perspective of Biblical Christianity

Submission was required of Christ:  equal to Father, yet submissive

Submission is at the heart of the gospel, as we submit to Christ as Lord

Submission is essential to a biblical family and a healthy church

What is the role of women in the church?  

Women are to be fully engaged in church life for they are needed and fully gifted by the Holy Spirit

Women are to be a source of influence and learning for the whole church

3.  Pastoral leadership is best Shared

The references to elders in the New Testament Church are almost all plural (Acts 14:23, Acts 20:17, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:5, James 5:14. 1 Peter 5:1)

This is not mandated in the Bible, but it appears to be the example

Wisdom itself also calls for shared counsel (Proverbs 11:14 etc.)

Our church views all pastors as equal in authority

Reason #1:  we see no convincing biblical evidence of a higher level of pastor

For those who point to James in Acts 15, Galatians 1:19 tells us he is an Apostle

Many claim the so called Moses model, but Moses was not a pastor, nor did he lead a church

Reason #2:  we want to follow what helps us best glorify God

To operate as a plurality forces us to continually work on character issues; it helps build our sanctification

A major criticism of operating as a plurality is that it is less efficient

“Less efficient concerning what?”  Moving faster or building character?

We have found that it brings greater continuity among the various areas of responsibility held by the different pastors

4.  Pastoral leadership is Servant leadership

All pastors/shepherds serve under the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4)

Servanthood is the only form of life or leadership that the New Testament gives to us

This is true of pastors, small group leaders, parents, husbands, and anyone who wants to be a gospel influence

SERMON LEFTOVERS 10.17.24

Love the church God established

 

Ephesians 4:1-16

 

God established his Church in loving unity (vs 1-7)

The bonds of our unity are rather extraordinary

1.  The unity of the Church is Trinitarian (v4 one Spirit, v5 one Lord, v6 one Father)

God is a Triune being, and each member is ever working in every believer

God’s greatest intention for us is that we share this unity (John 17:20-23)

2.  The unity of the church flows out of the gospel (v5 one faith, one baptism)

3.  The unity of the church flows into eternity (v4 one body, one hope)

The Church is a forever family

We are all part of the same covenant kingdom

So why do churches often struggle with unity?

(1)  Satan hates God, so he is relentless in attacking the church which is precious to God

(2)  People in the church don’t always understand their own identity. Instead they look at church life through culture rather than Scripture

The application of our unity is in vs 1-3

Paul urges us to live according to the realities of our unity

This requires us to see these realities when we see one another

 

God established structure for his Church

God has given specific practices for every church:

(1)  The church is to gather regularly to be under the ministry of the Word

(2)  The church is to practice community

(3)  The church is to practice the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper

(4)  The church is to protect against sin through church discipline

And in Ephesians 4 we are told God gives leaders to his church (vs 11-12)

Leaders are given by God to organize and lead local churches, so that the practices God has given to the church are maintained

In this passage the emphasis is on their responsibility to “equip” the members of the church

An implication of God’s structure is the importance of membership

The church is not just universal (all believers everywhere), the church is local (specific congregations)

Without the commitment of membership, which church are we responsible to?  

Without the commitment of membership, how do pastors fully know who is under their care?

 

God established the purpose of his Church (vs 13-14)

The great purpose of the church is to make mature Disciples of Christ

We proclaim the gospel to bring people into the church    

We press toward Christ-like maturity, so we actually look like him

God’s purpose must shape how we shape practices of church life

So an important question churches must continually ask: Do our practices bear this fruit?  

 

God established engagement for his Church (vs 15-16)

The existence of church leaders doesn’t minimize the role of church members

v16 the church is held together by “every joint”

v16 the church grows when “each part” is working properly

Churches cannot be healthy unless their members are engaged

This doesn’t mean random volunteering, but a commitment to the life of your church 

v16 also states that members most “work properly”, which means the characteristic of our involvement is not a matter of personal opinion, it is to be shaped by Scripture

A church that places the weight of ministry on its leaders will have a very limited ministry

So it is important that members have clarity about the doctrines of church, otherwise their involvement will be directed by opinion rather than Scripture

When it comes to church life, it is meant to be our life

WHAT IS TRUE EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANITY?

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J.C. Ryle was a pastor and bishop in the Anglican Church during the second half of the 19th century. He served during a time when that church as a whole had lost sight of the gospel and was falling into widespread liberalism.

Ryle was determined to keep the gospel as his central focus, but sadly much of the church around him not only didn’t care – they ridiculed him and called his beliefs “dangerous”. How blind his critics were, for the greatest danger in life is to deny or ignore the gospel truths he sought to keep clear!

As he tirelessly fought the religious trends around him, Ryle identified what he called the “5 leading features of evangelical Christianity”.

1.  The absolute supremacy of Holy Scripture as the only rule of faith and practice.

2.  The depth and prominence it assigns to the doctrine of human sinfulness and corruption.

3.  The paramount importance it attaches to the work and office of the Lord Jesus Christ.

4.  The high place it assigns to the inward work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of man.

5.  The importance it attaches to the outward and visible work of the Holy Spirit in the life of man. True grace will always make itself manifest in conduct.

The title of “Evangelical Christian” is used broadly in the church today, but in many cases the implications of this title are watered down so much it becomes meaningless.

The church in every generation needs to seriously ponder and aggressively protect what it means to be a true biblical / gospel-centered Christian! This means Ryle’s ‘5 signs’ remain valuable reminders and guides to us.

 

CHURCH SERVICES SHOULD REFLECT GOD’S SENSIBILITIES

One of my concerns with the church in America over the past generation is that the focus in the main worship service is often on reaching unbelievers.

Certainly we want to be as committed to reaching people as Jesus!

But we should not lose sight of the purpose for the gathering of God’s people, which is the ministry of the means of grace God has given to the church. This involves the ministry of the Word, prayer and the ordinances of communion and baptism.

None of this excludes reaching out to unbelievers; in fact a healthy church will be drenched with gospel clarity. My concern is when the church shapes itself according to the sensibilities of those who don’t actually care about God. The result can be churches that are shallow.

A worship service is meant to exalt God; we are not doing a good job of that if we have to minimize biblical priorities so unbelievers will not be offended.

This can easily lead to confusing people about gospel-living rather than leading them into it.

Jared Wilson lays this out in a much more coherent way that I do in this article, “Is Your Worship Service Upside Down?”  

The purpose is not to attack churches, but to have us become more thoughtful of what the church is meant to be. At the same time we will be able to think more clearly about our own role in the church and our expectations for it.

HOW A CHURCH INFLUENCES PEOPLE DOES MATTER

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Today’s blog is not meant to be a smear or a rant against the Roman Catholic Church.

However, what a church teaches and practices shapes its members in ways that have eternal consequences.

In other words – it matters that we get church practices right

To get them right means we must be biblical. There is nothing wrong with traditions “if” they are biblically rooted. But if they are unbiblical, they can become hellish in their affect.

I read this fascinating article by John Piper which presented 7 lessons he learned in a recent trip he made to Europe.

The first point is the one I hope you will take the time to read (the rest is extra credit).  Piper describes the “shackles” that the Roman Catholicism has placed upon millions of people over centuries.

Some of the issues he describes have lessened over the years, but their influence on people remain obstacles to the gospel.

Think about that reality for a moment.

When an institution which claims to be the church actually keeps people in darkness about the gospel, which is the only hope we have for salvation – what spiritual force is truly in charge of it?

 

DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE ROLE OF YOUR PASTOR?

I have been very fortunate that years ago my father helped instill a healthy understanding of the pastor’s role into our church. In many churches this is not the case.

I was naturally interested when I saw the title of this article by Joe McKeever,“5 Little-Known Truths About Pastors”.

For our church these may not be “little-known truths”. But it is still helpful for pastors and congregations to be refreshed in their clarity of what God has established about the church.

 

WHY DO YOU GO TO CHURCH?

Why go to church?

Let me count the ways.

Well, actually you don’t have to, because Casey Lewis has made this top 10 list of reasons why we should go to church for us.

Even if you faithfully attend your church, you may forget some of the excellent reasons – and there might be a reason or two on Carl’s list that you have never considered