In the Fullness of Time!

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” – Galatians 4:4-5

The foundation of the Church was never disconnected from the events taking place in the world around it. The early church did not believe that the coming of Christ was by random chance. They believed that God had been preparing the world for such a time as this. God worked to bring the world to a point in time in which Jesus could come and fulfill His mission. This means that everything from the current state of Judaism to the Greco-Roman world were the way they were for the express purpose of allowing Jesus to accomplish redemption and salvation for all who would believe in His name. The world that Christianity was born into provided avenues that allowed for the proclamation of the Gospel to take root and allowed the New Covenant relationship to spread throughout the known world. That friends is an awful lot to sink your teeth into. Isn’t God amazing!

Over the next few months, I plan to post about some of the major ways in which God had prepared the world for the coming of Christ and the founding of His Church! I hope you will be encouraged and edified in the process. May God richly bless you all!

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The Devastating Effects of Politics!

One need look no further than the current “Debt Crisis” in our nation’s capitol to see the devastating effects of politics. I have long heard the saying that the term, “politicians,” means “many blood suckers.” This rationale comes from a rather funny use of the term’s  etymology: poly (many) ticks (blood suckers). Now any sane person knows that is not a correct etymology of the word, but at the same time it seems to be an appropriate definition of the politicians in D.C. who seem bent on making life tougher on the little men and women. They want to suck the life right out of the average Joe!

The political posturing that we see taking place in Washington limits any real solutions taking place. It is holding back our nation from recovering economically. As long as this brand of politics continues to play itself out, our nation will continue to decline, more people will be out of work, more folks will be scared of being out of work, inflation will continue to become a larger problem which in turn will effect everyone’s paycheck. Politics are simply devastating! Political maneuvering holds everyone back from where their potential could take them.

Unfortunately, the same thing could be said about many of our Southern Baptist Churches. I recently talked with a woman from another local church. She is looking for a church that she can place her trust in. She was hurt pretty badly by petty political games in her former church. She believed that the church existed to serve God as His ambassadors to a lost and dying world, yet in her case, the church she attended, for many years I might add, was more concerned about their own personal preferences and comforts. Politics created such a stalemate in their church that no one could get anything ministry related accomplished. Things were always debated over and tabled until later meetings in which they would be tabled again. Just like those in Washington who are attempting to kick the debt crisis down the road again, there were those in power at this church who just kept kicking ministry down the road. I have heard and witnessed many similarly tragic cases of politics dividing  Southern Baptist Churches. Brothers and Sisters, this should not be in the Church of Jesus Christ. We should not be wounding our own people without need!

The Bible says, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3). As Southern Baptists we believe that “Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes” (BF&M 2000). As such, we can have disagreements about how to proceed in ministry, but we must not hinder ministry by not coming to a consensus. We can have healthy debate, under the Lordship of Christ, in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, without hindering ministry, if we allow the authority of Scripture to be our sole guiding light. If we remove personal preference and comfort from the picture and focus on Christ and the mission He has given us, then we will be able to preserve the unity of the church and do ministry at the same time.

Southern Baptists, let us endeavor to not resemble the mess going on in Washington , D.C.  Let us endeavor to view each other not as enemies, but as brothers and sisters who were undeservingly grafted into the family of God by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His amazing Grace. None of us deserve the privileged position we have in Christ! But because He has chosen to grace us with such a high honor, let us endeavor to act like true believers. As Paul says, let us, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” Let us not try to suck the life (the blood) right out of one another! Who knows if we get this perspective right, we may just realize who the real enemy is and unite against him with the greatest weapon we have been given, the Gospel, wielded by the most powerful body on earth, the Church. Maybe, just maybe, if we do, Washington might follow our lead!

Fight disunity wherever it exists, if you hear a brother or sister talking bad about another brother or sister, stop them dead in their tracks and tell them that is not how the family  of God should act. When politics rears its ugly head, fight for unity! God will not fail, He must prevail. Brothers and sisters, don’t hurt other brothers and sisters needlessly! Stop the bloodletting in our churches! Please!

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A Thoughtful Essay by an SBC Historian/Theologian!

Reconciling Congregational Polity and Pastoral Authority: Part One

May 5th, 2011 by Nathan Finn Print This Post

Baptists have historically affirmed congregational polity, or the idea that the church’s membership governs itself by means of democratic processes under the lordship of Jesus Christ. But Baptists have also affirmed strong pastoral authority, of the idea that a church’s members are to submit themselves to the leadership of their pastor or pastors. Seminary students sometimes ask if these two ideas can really be reconciled.

I think I know why seminarians (and many others) raise this question. Many Southern Baptists have past experiences in churches where these two concepts weren’t always balanced properly. Some have been members of churches where the pastor (or staff) made almost every important decision related to the church’s ministry. There were rarely, if ever, church conferences. When the church did assemble in conference, they tended to focus almost exclusively on financial matters like the annual budget, building programs, and the buying and selling of church property.

Others have been members of churches where the pastor had little or no authority of any kind. Instead, pastors and other staff were treated as merely paid employees who worked for a personnel committee or deacon board. Almost every ministry decision was put to a full vote before the entire congregation. The pastor had to seek approval to make any changes whatsoever to the status quo. And if the pastor failed to toe the party line, it was time for him to find another ministry elsewhere.

In both of the above scenarios, I think there is a lack of trust between pastor and congregation, though it obviously manifests differently in each case. It is also possible that in both scenarios, the pastor and staff aren’t considered “real” church members, but are rather seen as either private ministry contractors who are working at their current church or ministry experts who use their present church as the laboratory for all their grand ideas.

No doubt most churches are somewhere between these two extremes, but I know of several churches that could accurately fit each of the above descriptions. And they are of every size and located in every corner of the Southern Baptist Convention, though I think it’s fair to say that in general larger churches tend toward an overemphasis on pastoral leadership while smaller churches tend toward an overemphasis on congregational decision-making.

This is not a recent debate. During the 1980s, one of the common differences between conservatives and moderates were their respective views on pastoral leadership. Moderates frequently accused conservatives of holding to an “authoritarian” view of pastoral ministry. Conservatives responded that too many moderates downplayed pastoral leadership and advocated a polity that was too egalitarian in terms of roles and responsibilities. In 1988, The Theological Educator at New Orleans Seminary even invited Richard Land and Ralph Langley to dialog on this debate in a special issue dedicated to “Polarities in the Southern Baptist Convention.” Land represented conservatives and Langley represented moderates.

For my part, I’m convinced congregationalism and pastoral authority can be reconciled. In my opinion, when we look at all the New Testament has to say about church structure and leadership, and when we take into account the reality that we cannot perfectly replicate their model because there are no contemporary apostles who exercise unilateral authority over churches, it seems like the best way to apply apostolic practices to contemporary churches is something like the following:

  • A healthy local church is an assembly of regenerated individuals who testify to their salvation by confessor immersion and covenant together for the sake of the gospel
  • Local churches are ultimately ruled by Jesus Christ, who is the Head of a redeemed people that he has called into existence through his saving work and who receive that salvation through repentance and faith
  • Local churches are governed by decisions made by the whole congregation, who constitute a royal priesthood in submission to the lordship of Christ as it is revealed through the Scriptures
  • Local churches are led by biblically qualified and congregationally authorized pastors who guide the congregation through their godly example and their proclamation of the Scriptures
  • Local churches are served by biblically qualified and congregationally authorized deacons who care for various needs within the body and thereby free the pastors to concentrate on the ministries of prayer and proclamation

I think most Baptist churches would affirm something like the above, though not every church would say it exactly the same way. But as with so many debates, the devil is in the details. In my next post, I hope to tease this model out in some practical ways that I hope show that we really can be congregational and really follow the leadership of our pastors.

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The Story ()

The Story ().

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Being an Authentic Disciple of Jesus Christ!

The following is an excerpt from:

Bryant, David.  “What it means to be a World Christian.” Perspective’s on the World Christian Movement: A Reader.  Ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1986, pp 825-826.

“What, then, shall we call this discovery that can change us so radically and yet make us so healthy? And, what shall we call those who have experienced it?

By now it should be obvious that all Christians are born again into the Gap between God’s world-wide purpose and the fulfillment of it. But there’s more than one kind of response to that Gap.

Some are asleep, some are on retreat, and some are determined to stand in the Gap, particularly at its widest end where billions await the opportunity to hear of Christ for the first time. Some are heading into the “sunrise of missions” while others huddle in the shadows. Many move along at a sluggish pace, changing little in the Gap because of their own internal gap-of-unbelief. Others run the race before them setting no limits on how, where, or among whom God will use them.

Some are trapped in boxes of pea-sized Christianity, full of myths about missions that rob them of incentive to care about the unreached. Others have broken through into cause-Christianity, ready to reach out with God’s love to the ends of the earth. They are determined to make Christ’s global cause the unifying focus – the context – for all they are and do in the Gap. Yielded to the mediator, they are willing to be broken and remolded to fit in the Gap wherever they can make the most strategic impact. In turn, they’re growing to know Christ, obey Him, and glorify Him as the mediator.

So, what shall we call the discovery that directs Christians toward the needs of the Gap? And how shall we distinguish those who have made it?

Some Christians in the Gap are stunted by selfishness and petty preoccupations or by a cautious obedience and love reserved for the closest and easiest to care about. How shall we distinguish the others in the Gap whose growth in discipleship is unmistakable, with a vitality that comes only to those who help bring lost sinners from many nations home?

What shall we call this distinct group of Christians who have taken a stand that says:

We want to accept personal responsibility for reaching some of earth’s unreached, especially from among the billions at the widest end of the Gap who can only be reached through major new efforts by God’s people. Among every people-group where there is no vital, evangelizing Christian community there should be one, there must be one, there shall be one. Together we want to help make this happen.

For a moment, let’s call them WORLD CHRISTIANS. Of course, any new term might be misunderstood. For example, some might think I said “worldly” Christians, not World Christians. By now we know, however, if you are one, you can’t be the other. If you are one you don’t want to be the other!”

I hope you were uplifted in your devotion to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as you read this excerpt. I pray that you will seek to identify which one of these two people you are. Your life and the lives of others depend upon it!

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:10

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The Church and Prayer!

As we look at the American Church today, it is important to realize that wherever God is working, the devil is also present to oppose. Whenever God’s people say, “Let us rise up and obey,” the devil and his demonic cohorts are right there, shouting, “Let us rise up and oppose them.” Brothers and Sisters, that is exactly why we must engage in spiritual warfare. We must be ready to fight the good fight. There is no progression in our spiritual lives, both individually and corporately, without opposition from the evil one. There is no progress without warfare. For that reason, we must prepare ourselves for an attack and discipline ourselves to keep our guard up at all times. That begins, after a salvation experience, with Bible intake and prayer. Most of us practice Bible intake in our lives to a certain degree. But our study and practice of prayer comes up woefully short! Andrew Murray refers to a sin called the sin of prayerlessness. He asserts that this sin is prevalent among Christians in our modern era. If this is true, then how can we afford to neglect the study and practice of prayer when it is so central in the Bible?

Throughout the Old Testament, prayer played a major role in determining the obedience of the believer. In the Gospels, Jesus taught and modeled the importance of prayer in places like the Sermon on the Mount and the Garden of Gethsemane. His last words upon the cross were prayers. In Acts, hardly a page can be turned that does not contain a prayer. The church was born out of a prayer meeting in the upper room. The deacon ministry was established as a means to relieve the Apostles from ministerial duties so that they might give themselves totally over “to prayer and the ministry of the Word.” Saul was commissioned as he and Ananias responded in obedience to instructions that came to Ananias through prayer. Cornelius was saved as he and Peter prayed. Christian Missions began in prayer. Stephen prayed just before becoming the first Christian martyr, an event which would spread Christianity throughout the world. Paul spoke heavily about prayer. So did Peter and James, as well as others. The Bible is full of prayer. How can we neglect the study and practice of prayer when it is so central in the Bible?

Brothers and Sisters of Poovey’s Grove Baptist Church, beginning Wednesday night, April 6th, during our Wednesday evening service, we are going to shake things up a bit. We are going to have a focused time of prayer followed by a study through the book of Acts! If you have been interested in what happened in the first days of the church, then you will not want to miss a single night! Let us pay close attention to the practice of prayer in Acts. May God grant us hearts that are willing to bow before His throne of Grace more and more each day. Prayer is such a wonderful place to begin to do the work of God! We can do a lot of things for God after we have prayed, but we can’t really do anything for Him until we have prayed. May Poovey’s Grove Baptist Church be known as a church of prayer and service throughout our community and world! Remember that prayer really does change things, the most important of which is ourselves. Prayer changes us from the inside, out! Hope you will be able to join us for prayer and Bible study every Wednesday night! May God bless you all as you seek to be follower of His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ! Let us not neglect the study and practice of prayer, especially when it is so central in the Bible!

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Question?

What do you think has traditionally been the most effective at reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Church Worship Services or Sunday School?

Let me know what you think!

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