The Necessity Of Structure

Admittedly I am fairly new to the whole Charismatic circle. I grew up in an Independent Baptist Church, attended a small SBC pastoral school after high school, interned for three years at a Reformed Baptist Church and then served on staff at a college church plant before taking the opportunity to plant an Assemblies of God church. It’s been a crazy journey to this point! I’ve learned a lot about the church! One thing in particular that I’ve learned is the need for structure within the church.

I’ve heard many times that “we just need to let the Spirit move in the service”, and while I don’t disagree, per se, it’s usually a way to avoid authority. With that said, I want to address the need for structure in three areas of the church: the worship service, the leadership and the membership.

Structure In The Worship Service

Every week I am provided the opportunity to structure the service for Foundation Community Church, and every week I have to examine the songs, the Scripture, the creeds or confessions—literally everything involved—to ensure that it flows according to Scripture. I want it to flow in such a way that those in attendance are brought in by excitement and joy to worship. Churches, I believe, too often begin with a very mellow, sad song and it only hinders deep and authentic worship.

The next two songs are usually deep in theology and have to do with the theme of our text for the day. I want our people to be brought in by the joy of worshiping their Creator but then I want them to understand and realize their utter dependence on their Creator to save the from their sin. We will usually read the day’s text or a confession or creed between songs two and three, it gives a break from singing and allows us to hear the text and hopefully correlate it with the song we’re about to sing. After the third song, myself or someone else will pray before the message.

After the message, if we are doing communion, we will sing two songs; if there is no communion we will sing one. If we are singing two, the song will be focused on the atonement of Christ (to theme with communion). If it is only one song it will be a song of excitement. I want to send believers out knowing the joys and happiness of their right standing in Christ and I want non-believers to see the joy that believers have.

With that being said, let me address the why. Why do we do it this way? Why don’t I just “let the Spirit move”? I’m unashamedly Reformed. I’m also unashamedly Charismatic. (If you would like to know how these two fit together in more detail read this article [written by yours truly]). I believe in the Five Solas, especially Sola Scriptura which limits how we do things in the church to how the Scriptures say to do them. Therefore, when Paul writes “If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?” in 1 Corinthians 14:23, and a few verses later in verse 40, “But all things should be done decently and in order.” I see a structure.

If everything should be done decently and in order, then shouldn’t we take time to make sure that be diligent in planning out our service is organized in the best, most efficient way? I believe so! That’s why I contend that churches should structure their service in such a way that it engages people’s emotions, their minds and their spirits; taking them from joy, to reliance and back to joy in reliance.

Structure In Leadership

Nobody really argues that there shouldn’t be leadership. It’s just plain stupid to do so. What people do argue over is the structure of the leadership. Do we need only a single pastor? Do we need a plurality of elders? Do we need a senior pastor and an associate pastor? Are deacons leaders? The list could probably go on for a very long time! Regardless, the question I hope that you ask (especially if you’re a pastor in a church or are contemplating starting a church) is “what does the Bible say about the leadership of a church?”

I am under the conviction that you need a plurality of elders… eventually. I currently am the only pastor at Foundation, but I’m earnestly praying for God to raise up another man to share the load with me. Both churches I served at had at least two pastors who were “senior pastors” in responsibilities. They shared the load of ministry together. The church I served at before planting was extremely helpful in me seeing how this plays out. They were best friends, but completely different personalities. Their gifts rarely, if ever, came in opposition to each other. Both were apt communicators, but one clearly had the distinct ability and calling to do so. The other was extremely gifted in administration, and that’s what he loved to do.

Further, if you have multiple leaders who share the same vision, as your church grows you don’t have to scramble to train people by yourself. This is my ideal elder-member ratio (whether or not its always doable or wise is contingent upon numerous things): 1:10. I want one pastor for every ten members. Not one pastor for every ten people, but for every member. I’m not convinced that anyone can lead more than ten people by themselves.

“What about deacons?” you might ask. My next series at Foundation about the church, and in it I’m going to address the roles of elders and deacons. I’m going to use a phrase that I believe is very biblical and very practical: “the church is led by elders and served by deacons.” Are deacons leaders? Absolutely! But not in the same way that elders are. To use a basketball analogy, elders are the coaches and deacons are the team captains. The elders lead in teaching and vision casting, the deacons lead by implementing that vision.

My dream for Foundation is that we will be a church that loves and serves our community. I pray that one day we will have work days where we have numerous community projects for the church to gather and do. I want those projects to be arranged, managed and overseen by deacons. Community outreach is service, and if deacons called to lead by service, then shouldn’t they be given the opportunity to lead by serving? I believe so!

Structure In Membership

“Why do we need members? Doesn’t it isolate the insiders from the outsiders?” “Why do you need oxygen? Doesn’t that isolate the living from the dead?” If I were ever to have this conversation with people, I would hope that it gets recorded and turned into in a #ReformedThugLife video.

Does having a membership draw a line between those in the church and those outside of the church? Yes. Is that bad? No. Quite the opposite actually. Jesus did modeled it for us. Remember when He fed the 5,000? That likely was just the men. You assume most of the men had wives, so you’re now up to 10,000 people. They likely had children too, right? So, now we are somewhere near 20,000 people. That’s a lot of people! But then Jesus does the craziest thing, He tells them to drop everything and follow him! Suddenly the crowd dwindled down to little more than a gathering. Jesus effectively separated those that were dedicated to the mission from those that weren’t.

In the church we should have the same mindset. Not that “outsiders” aren’t welcomed, because they are, but because at some point you must draw a line and say (in effect) “If you’re dedicated to the mission of this local body, then we invite you to become part of the body for the sake of the body.”

Asking people to join the church shouldn’t be something you avoid at all cost, it’s a necessary part of the church.

Conclusion

Structure in the church is most definitely necessary. Without structure, you are liable (even apt) to go with the wind. Without structure and with one bad decision you are likely to collapse completely. So to those that think we need the least amount of structure possible, or no structure, I entreat you to consider the cost. Consider how devastating it could be to you, your ministry, and your community to not have structure.

Sermon Notes: “Believing The Shepherd”

sheep

(These are the notes from a sermon that I preached a while back. Feel free to use them for your own study. Note, this is not a manuscript so some of the thoughts may seem scattered.)

Text: John 10:22-30

Introduction
I like using the Lectionary when I’m trying to decide what passage I need to preach because it will force you deal with things in the passage you may not feel comfortable dealing with. In a way, I think we should all (preacher or layman) get on some kind of a reading plan that will force us to read the Bible as a whole because you will find yourself in parts of the Bible that you ordinarily wouldn’t read and you’ll end up learning some things you didn’t know before, and you end up in a situation where the Bible confronts you and begins to tear at the fabric of what you were always taught to believe, and when this happens we need to let the Bible drive any of our pre-conceived notions that do not line up with what we’re reading in Scripture.

“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.” ― John R.W. Stott

So tonight, I’ll be using John 10:22-30 as my main passage, but I will be jumping around to different parts of Scripture so that I can show you what the Bible forces us to deal with as we read this passage and seek to understand it’s meaning.

At the beginning of this passage, there’s three things we need to notice about the setting. There’s an important place, an important person, and an important party.

Important Person – Jesus the Messiah, the Jewish leaders have been hounding Him to tell them plainly if He is, in fact, the Messiah. And if you are paying attention to the chronology of John, then you’ll notice that this actually one of the more humorous passages in the Gospels and you’ll see why in a little bit.

Important Place – The Temple, more specifically, Solomon’s porch. “This place is important; it was the porch or portico on the east side of the Temple and was called the “Porch of Judgment.” From this location, the King would make his judgments and exercise justice for those who were brought before him. And here is Jesus strolling through this historic location, physically embodying justice in this place of justice — something his life and teachings were all about.”

Important Party – The Feast of Dedication, sometimes called the Festival of Lights, and today this event is known as Hanukkah. The Jews celebrated (and still celebrate) Hanukkah to remember a time when God kept the lamps in the temple burning for eight days even though there was only enough oil to last one day due to an oil shortage because of war in the land at that time.

As we keep these things in mind, let’s also notice that Jesus has been in Jerusalem since the Feast of Tabernacles which you read about in John 7 and He has been periodically teaching in the temple and revealing Himself as the Messiah that was promised in the Old Testament.

Our 3 points will be the following:
The Reason for Unbelief (verses 24-26)
The Reason for Belief (verse 27)
The End Result (verses 28-29)

The Reason for Unbelief (verses 24-26)
Notice what verse 26 says, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.” It doesn’t say “you are not of my sheep because you do not believe.” See, we can’t simply look at the passage and say, “Well then, their problem is that they simply do not believe. They’re just blatantly ignoring the facts.” While there’s truth to that, the problem isn’t simply unbelief, unbelief is only a symptom of a greater disease. The greater disease is deadness in sin. Remember what Paul says in Ephesians 2, “You were dead in your sins.”

We often like to imagine Jesus as a lifeguard that throws us a life saver as we’re drowning in the sea of sin, but that analogy wrong, because Paul says the wages of sin is death. So, if you’re not saved, then you’re not sick in your sins, you’re not the brink of death in your sins, you’re dead in your sins.

So then, Jesus isn’t some lifeguard that throws you a life saver, He actually swims to the bottom of the ocean and carries your corpse up out of the sea, and breathes into you, the breath of life. So, then the problem people do not believe what Jesus is plainly telling them isn’t simply unbelief, it’s unbelief as a result of dead men walking in their sin.

In another place, Jesus makes a clear distinction between sheep and goats, so if Jesus is telling these Jews, “you do not believe because you are not my sheep” then it must follow that they are goats. And Jesus says, there will come a day when He separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left hand.
“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matthew 25:41 NRSV]

Jesus is making the clear distinction, unless you believe what He says about Himself in the Scriptures and follow Him, then you are nothing more than unbelieving goat.
“How do I know if I’m a sheep or a goat?” It’s simple. Do you desire to follow Christ and believe what He says? Then you’re a sheep. If you’re confronted with Scripture, and it doesn’t phase you or change you, then you’re a goat. Sheep love and follow Jesus.

The Reason for Belief (verse 27)

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” – [John 10:27 NRSV]

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” – [John 10:1-5 NRSV]

What is He saying here? When the shepherd calls, the sheep follow.

Do you remember that old song, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”? In the old school, when someone would make a decision for Christ, we would strike up the band and sing “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” That’s all well and good as long as we understand we don’t make the decision on our own apart from the inward drawing of the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”
– [John 6:44-45 KJV]

Let’s look at verse 45 in the NRSV just to good grasp of the meaning…
“It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” – [John 6:45 NRSV]

Notice, Jesus says, “It is written in the prophets…” Anytime you see that phrase mentioned, you need to look in the Old Testament to the passage that is being quoted and read it in context.

“And they all shall be taught by God.” – Although this is not a direct, word for word quote, Jesus pulls this from two passages in the Old Testament that speak of the same event – the promise of the New Covenant.

“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”
– [Jeremiah 31:33-34 NRSV]

“All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the prosperity of your children.” – [Isaiah 54:13 NRSV]

Here’s the big question: What does all this mean for us? It means that God, in love, has brought us into His covenant and placed us in fellowship with a covenant community of believers.

It means that our belief does not come from within us, it comes from God who loves us, draws us, saves us, sanctifies us, and will one day, glorify us. God is the cheif operator in our salvation, not us. John makes that clear at the beginning of His gospel account in John 1.

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
– [John 1:11-13 KJV]

Prior to being born again, we were enemies of God without hope in the world, but the will of God intervened for us, and drew us to a point in our lives where we knew we had to come to Jesus or be lost forever.

The End Result (verses 28-29)

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” – [John 10:27-29 KJV]

Let’s think about John 3:16 for a second. We know John 3:16, we love John 3:16, we can all quote John 3:16. We don’t dispute it. Yet, when it comes to verses like John 10:28-29, we want to say, “God gives them eternal life, but…” or “I know it says no one can pluck us out of God’s hand, but…” There are no ‘buts.’ There is nothing in the text that indicates that Jesus DOES NOT mean what He says.

There’s only one condition here. The sheep must follow, and He gives them eternal life.

Here’s how it works.

The Shepherd calls, the sheep follow, He gives them eternal life.

The Shepherd ALWAYS calls. The sheep ALWAYS follow. The Shepherd ALWAYS grants eternal life to the sheep. This is the beauty of Unconditional Election. Our election in Christ is sure. Our salvation is secure. There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that can be done for our salvation to be lost.

I can hear someone asking now, “But what if the sheep ever stop following?” Then that’s not a sheep, that’s a goat. The sheep may stray, but shepherd always brings the sheep back.

“How do we know who is a sheep and who is a goat?” It’s none of our business, Jesus will separate them Himself.

Now, here’s the big question for you tonight? Are you a lost sheep? Do you need Jesus to find you? Do you need hope that only salvation can give? You may be here, and you may be saved, but you need the joy of your salvation restored. Jesus can grant you joy unspeakable and full of glory.