Church

BEING USED BY GOD ON SUNDAY MORNING

If you attend church regularly, you probably would like to see God use you in fruitful ways that bless your church.

In an article entitled, “How Members Can Serve the Church on Sunday Morning”,  the 9Marks website shares these ways that ordinary church members can serve their church on Sunday. Prayerfully give one or more of these a try and see what God does.

Before the Service

Read the passage in advance

Pray for the gathering

Greet newcomers (act like you are the host)

Think strategically about who you should sit with

Arrive early

 During the Service

Sing with gusto (even if you can’t sing)

Help with logistics (if there’s a problem, help fix it)

Don’t be distracted

Listen carefully

After the Service

Connect newcomers with others

Get newcomers information

Start a conversation about the sermon

Ask someone how they became a Christian

Stay late

DIFFERENCES DISAPPEAR IN CHRIST

by Debbie Huber

People tend to be drawn to others who are similar to them by the world’s standards. The friends or those that people spend the most time with outside of family tend to be of similar age, or have similar socioeconomic, academic, cultural, or ethnic backgrounds. 

But as Christians we are brought together by something greater. 

The Bible tells us “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21)

The worldly distinctions that once divided us no longer apply because the gospel is our shared foundation. We are united in Christ with an eternal bond that is not of this world. 

We can form relationships with people that may seem very different than us by the world’s standards because they are our brother or sister in Christ.  We should expect to see differences among us. 

These relationships set us apart from the world and are a testimony that we are united in Christ.

Take a step and seek out fellow believers of all ages and backgrounds.  Be intentional about these relationships because the bond is greater than anything of this world. And the world will take notice and our God will be glorified. 

DON’T FORGET GOD ON YOUR VACATION

Vacation season is upon us, and whether or not this is when you are on the road, it is a good time to consider how we honor God while we travel.

Sam Bierig encourages us in this article to make sure we don’t allow excuses to keep us from being in church when we are away.

I will add two other areas we should not let slip during vacations.

Giving – the expenses of your church don’t diminish when you are on vacation. Make sure you remain supportive of your church family whenever you cannot attend a service.

If you don’t give regularly to your church during the rest of the year, keep this in mind: you expect your church to be faithful in its ministry to you, so you should be faithful in making that ministry possible. 

Devotional time – vacation definitely flips over our regular schedule, which is the point of going on vacation! Still, have meaningful engagement with God.

Vacations are meant to be relaxing, but we have all experienced vacations turning into times of frustration. We need our hearts equipped by God wherever we are. God is worthy of living for him in all situations – including the times of getting away, which he graciously makes possible for us.

When you go away to be refreshed, keep in mind that meaningful time with our good God is refreshing.

CHURCH HUNTERS

This tongue-in-cheek video cleverly exposes many of the casual and self-centered attitudes our culture has toward church life.

 

WHAT DO PASTORS LOVE TO HEAR?

 

When I saw this article, “10 Things Pastors Would Love to Hear from Their Church Members”, I was obviously interested in seeing what was on the list and comparing it with my own experience.

#1 on the article’s list is undoubtedly first on my list as well (you have to read the list to discover what that is).

#10 “I will never compare you to a previous pastor” has never been an issue for me. The pastor who preceded me had an unusually powerful ministry. I don’t mind that his ministry “shoes” are bigger than mine. Plus I love him too much to worry about comparisons.

#7 “I will make certain your family has an adequate income.” Like everyone else, I could always use more money, but God and our church have always cared for my family.

#6 “I see my role as one who will confront the perpetual critics in the church.” I must admit, that is a nice one.

And #9 is pretty sweet as well.

#8 “I am available to babysit your kids.” This was helpful at one time, but now I have grandkids and you’re not taking any babysitting opportunities away from me!

Items that belong on the list:

“Let me tell you how God is using me in someone’s life”

“What are some helpful books to read?”

“This is how I have been growing lately in my love for God”

“I love my church”

“This is why I am thankful for the people of our church”

“I am interested in going on a mission trip”

“Let’s get some coffee”

“This pie I baked for you is still warm”

 

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

HAVING A GOOD ATTITUDE FOR THE 2ND HALF OF LIFE

I was never bothered by stepping into new decades of age.

Everybody likes turning 20, because you finally think you’re an adult. Only twelve months until you are 21!

When I turned 30 I was excited, because being a pastor in your 20s seems to lack in gravitas.

My 40th birthday was the first time I could remember serious joking about my being older. The office staff decorated my office in black as if they were celebrating a wake. But I wasn’t fazed at bit.

Getting older never made me pause …that is until I turned 50.

Somehow passing that age barrier made me reflective about what my life had accomplished. For the first time my remaining years of ministry and influence felt measured. After all, turning 50 is half way to being 100 years old, which is how long my grandfather lived.

I was not depressed by turning 50, but I wasn’t excited about it either. But all that is history, because I am now closer to the decade to be unnamed that follows your fifties.

Perhaps this is why an article by Thom Rainer in which he discusses how we walk through senior years caused me to pause and actually read it.

Thom Rainer is a respected Christian writer as well as the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. His thoughts are helpful for any adult, but as the years add up, the perspectives he mentions are increasing important.

If you are 23, you may not be overly interested in what Rainer has to say, but all Christians will eventually face the attitudes he addresses.

Turn here to read “Five Things I Pray I Will Not Do as a Senior Adult in 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