The Battle For Salvation: A Brief Critique of the Traditionalist’s Statement on Salvation 

THe battle for salvation

Recently the Traditionalist sect of the SBC put forth their own statement of faith, contrasting it against the Calvinist sect. As a Calvinists I disagree with the Traditionalist on several points, and most of our differences don’t hinder our relationship too much. However, there is a very problematic article in the statement. My desire is to address the problem with grace, in hopes that my Traditionalist brothers and sisters will reconsider the severity of this article.

In Article Two, entitled “The Sinfulness of Man”, is written:

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.

This post presents several very severe doctrinal issues. First, We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Some will say that I’m arguing over semantics, but saying we are “inclined” to sin skirts around the main issue: the deadness of the heart. Paul says we are “dead in our trespasses and sins”. If you are dead, you aren’t “inclined” to not breathing, you actually don’t breathe.

The London Baptist Confession of Faith articulates it well by saying:

They being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, an eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free. (6.3)

When Adam sinned, he plunged all of mankind into death with him. Christians, we are not simply “inclined” to sin, we are born into sin, a state that is utterly abhorrent to God and apart from His saving grace we will continue in sin.

Lastly, We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. The biggest problem here is that it denies both the Federal Headship of Adam and original sin.

First let’s tackle Federal Headship. What is meant by the term “Federal Headship”? In layman’s terms it simply means that in the Garden of Eden Adam represented us, he stood in our place. We see this most clearly in Romans 5:12-21. Shai Linne said it best when he said “one player commits a foul, the whole team gets penalized”. Adam, as our Federal Head, was our representative; he acted on our behalf. Therefore, when he sinned we all sinned (Romans 5:18,19).

Denying the Federal Headship of Adam has implications concerning the atonement of Christ. If Adam didn’t represent us then Christ wasn’t our representative. If Adam’s guilt wasn’t imputed to us, then Christ’s righteousness isn’t imputed to us. This is exactly what Paul meant when he said “by one man’s disobedience…so by one man’s obedience…” If we follow the Traditionalist’s thought here, and begin with everybody being guilty only by their own sins then logically only their death would satisfy God’s wrath. As you can see, being born guilty in Adam is actually good news! Because we are dead in Adam because of his sin, through Christ’s atonement we are made alive because of Christ’s death!

Now, let’s look at Original Sin. If one denies the Federal Headship of Adam then the logical next step is to deny original sin. Without Original Sin humans are born at worst in a neutral state, and at best in a state of perfection. Article Two states very clearly that the articulators of the document (and the signees as well) believe that humans are born into some sort of innocence until they commit their first sin. This is in direct opposition to Psalm 51:5. How could David say he was “brought forth in iniquity” if he was born innocent?

In conclusion I want to make one final argument, not merely for Federal Headship and Original Sin, but for a robustly Reformed view of Soteriology. The Traditionalist Statement is inconsistent. As the wise saying goes, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”.

On the one hand the Traditionalist Statement over and over again pushes for the innocence of man, and the freedom and ability of man to choose God, but then states “We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity.” Salvation is either wholly of God or wholly of man; synergistic salvation is antithetical to Biblical soteriology.

On the other hand, the Calvinistic understanding of salvation presents a coherency. Beginning with the total depravity of man, God is then the initiator of salvation by electing sinners unconditionally. In light of the unconditionality of election, Christ’s atonement is perfectly applied and completed by atoning for the sins of the elect. Because Christ accomplished his mission to save those that the Father chose, the Grace He provides is irresistible. Because God is the initiator of salvation and because His grace is irresistible, the regenerate sinner is secure in Christ and will undoubtedly persevere.
If you are a Traditionalist, I ask that you consider the implications of your statement concerning salvation. This isn’t simply a secondary issue like eschatology, this is the Gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Christians and Hospice Ministry

ChristiansHospice.jpg

If you see my right arm you’ll notice pretty quickly a tattoo. My tattoo says, very simply, “Imago Dei”. Imago Dei is Latin for “the image of God” and is typically used to express the Biblical fact that every single human being who was or ever will be created is created in the image of God and therefore their life is dignified.

This tattoo has a unique meaning to me nowadays though. I’m twenty-five years old and have worked for two separate hospices in North Carolina. Having worked in Hospice, even though just at a support level, has given me a new understanding of the importance of recognizing the Imago Dei of everybody.

You see, hospices exist to give everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, the care and treatment to die peacefully. Nurses work endlessly to alleviate the pain of the patient and to make sure that the family is taken care of. I interact with countless people daily who tell me how thankful they are for hospice because their family member lived their last days to the fullest extent and they died respectfully.

We live in a world absolutely veiled by discrimination because of the fall and it is saddening. But visit, or better yet volunteer at, your local hospice and you’ll see a glimpse of the depth of the Imago Dei.

There is a sweet sense of peace working in a field where you’re making lasting impressions on entire families. Hospice allows me to take the Gospel, Jesus being the remedy for sin-ridden mankind, and share it in practical ways with hurting families. At some point we all have to face the pains of death. Death sucks. The effects of sin suck, but the Gospel heals.

I want to end this post by encouraging you to talk to your local hospice about volunteering. If you’re a pastor, consider leading your congregation to partnering with hospice. Through hospice you’ll have countless opportunities to magnify Christ. Hospice is much more than end of life care. It is changing lives and impacting the community one life at a time, and in my case, it is fueled by a love for the Gospel and a command of Jesus to make disciples. That starts by ministering to broken people in a broken world in a time when they desperately need the loving comfort of the God who created them.

The Hope Of Believers In Death

The first question of the New City Catechism states: “What is our only hope in life and death? That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our savior Jesus Christ.”

What a great hope! But what is that hope rooted in? What is it’s basis? It’s rooted in the resurrection of Christ! In 1 Corinthians 15 the Apostle Paul pens fifty-eight verses explaining and applying the resurrection of Christ. I want to point out three things that I see in these fifty-eight verses that speak to the hope that we have in both our own death and the death of a loved one, if they are a believer. 

First, the Gospel is verified in and by the resurrection of Christ. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (15:22). The Gospel is about bringing dead people to life. When you were dead in your sins (Ephesians 2:1) the Holy Spirit convicted you of your sins, gave you faith and regenerated your heart. You needed a Savior because Adam sinned and plunged all of creation into sin; Jesus is that Savior! But how does this verify the Gospel, you might ask? Because without the resurrection Jesus Christ saves us no more than having a life jacket on next to you saves you from drowning. We can tell people all day long that Christ died for their sins, but if we don’t tell them that Christ rose from the grave it means absolutely nothing! 

Second, the resurrection promises us a new, glorified body. Our bodies are ravished by the effects of sin. Sickness and death are two inescapable effects of Adam’s sin. Our bodies deteriorate, and eventually decompose into the dust from which they came, but not our new glorified body. Our glorified body, free from sin and it’s effects, is not an earthly body but a heavenly one. Paul writes in 15:44 “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” Our new body is “raised in glory” (15:43), just like Jesus. 

Lastly, in the resurrection sin has lost its sting. What does Paul mean by “sting”? 15:56 sheds some light for us. According to Paul the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin (or maybe another way of saying it is “the fuel of sin”) is the Law. The Law of God does not save, rather it condemns. Two observations concerning the Law: 1) The Law is a mirror, revealing our sin to us (Romans 7:7-12). 2) Bondage to the Law “arouses” sinful passions within us. Why is it that when you put a sign up that says “Do Not Touch” we are always tempted to touch it? Because in our sinful and fallen nature we eagerly do contrary to what is commanded. The same is true with going against and breaking God’s Law. As unregenerate people, when we see the Law of God our instinct is to either rely upon it to save us or push against it in utter rebellion. The Law fuels our sinfulness, not because the Law is evil, but because it calls us to a holy life that sinners aren’t interested in living. 

Back to determining what Paul meant by “sting”! He says that the sting of death is sin, but death has now lost its sting (i.e. sin). In the resurrection of Christ, Christ has set us free from sin. Sin no longer has a grasp on those who have turned and repented of their sins. 

In conclusion I want to tie this into the hope that believers have in both their death and the death of loved ones who have professed genuine faith in Christ. Death is not easy to grasp, but the Gospel provides a handrail for us to hold on to. When believers die, they don’t go to hell or purgatory to pay for their sins– Christ paid for their sins already! Rather, they obtain their glorified body. In the death of a believer, sin’s last finger tip slips off of the person. No longer are they affected by the fall. There’s no more weeping, heartache, sickness, or decay. There’s only joyous praise in the realization and collection of their promised reward– Jesus! 
If you are grieving the loss of someone close to you, and they believed in Christ, rest assured in the words of Paul “God, who gives us the victory through Christ”. Christ has obtained the Salvation of all those that the Father commands, and the Spirit seals all those that Jesus purchased redemption for. There is hope, a sweet and joyous hope, and His name is Jesus!

Why You Should Consider A House Church

We live in a day and age where (especially in America) people work more than forty hours just to make ends meet. Then on top of that their kids play sports, or are part of various clubs and societies. Parents come home, turn the tv on and desperately try to zone out and escape reality. Then, on the weekends they get together with friends and family. The kids play together while the adults bemoan about having to go to church tomorrow. I’ve heard it for years while working in a “secular” job—“I don’t have time for church on Sunday, I just want to rest” (ignoring the fact that 3 out of 4 times Saturday was spent with friends and family doing something that was physically exhausting and thus not resting). So as someone who loves the church, I can’t help but lament at the weight the American church has added to the family. “Join a small group!” “Come out and serve!” “Invite your friends (who are really just as beat and weary as you and likely wont come either)!” And I know churches mean well, and that the program system once worked but, frankly, now it doesn’t.

I say all of that to say this: we need something different. Something natural, organic. Something that alleviates families from the burdensome weight of going to church and gives them the freedom found in the Gospel to be the church. Thus, I am highly favorable of the house church. Below are the pros and cons that I see in the house church model.

Pros

  1. Money is not an obstacle. It’s no secret that planting a church costs money. It is also no secret that ministry often times does not provide substantial amounts of money. But with a house church all the incoming money can go straight to missions—local and otherwise. The house church is able to actually help those in need, and not just direct them to another ministry for assistance.
  2. You meet where people are most comfortable (and open): I personally love having people over to hang out! Even as an introvert, it is some of the most fun that I have. People generally are more comfortable and open to going to someone’s house over and against going to a church building. If we’re completely honest with ourselves, it is really awkward to invite others to church. And most of the time it’s a failed attempt.
  3. Hospitality drives the movement: In order for the house church movement to thrive, the people must be hospitable. You aren’t just gathering together with other believers, but with unbelievers and skeptics who are taking a huge step by coming over to a stranger’s home with a bunch of Christians. If people aren’t hospitable, especially the host family, then the chances of being able to speak Gospel life into the lives of unbelievers become all but null and void.
  4. Teaching is more practical and life-giving: Ideally the teaching becomes less structured (i.e. the meeting is less formal and bound to a schedule) and more organic. As people share about their week and the struggles they’ve faced each person has the opportunity to share Biblical truths with others and that in turn leads into the teaching time. The Gospel becomes incredibly freeing when it is taught in a way that speaks directly to the daily life of a believer and not in a lecture-style sermon.
  5. Believers are encouraged to bear the burdens of others: Galatians 6:2 is a clear command to believers to come beside other believers and walk with them in times of trial. It’s not uncommon for people to join a larger church because they can get lost in the crowd. In a house church, because of its small size, it is imperative for everyone to bear the weight of the daily battle with sin.
  6. Neighborhoods are changed from the inside: It’s not uncommon to hear a pastor say “we have a heart for (insert city name)” and while that is a good goal, it’s a rather large goal. The house church says “we have a heart for our neighbors”, which is a more manageable goal. By changing our own neighborhood, we take steps to changing the city as a whole.
  7. It is elder-led and deacon-served, by nature: Servant leadership comes a lot more naturally in a house church. Elders are able to pastor the flock with more precision and diligence because the flock is a lot smaller. Deacons are also able to serve more easily. This is especially true if the house church is specifically focusing on their neighborhood alone. In that case, ministry by the deacons and elders are able to make visits to the sick and hurting in a quick manner because they are literally living among their sheep.
  8. Spiritual gifts can more be more freely expressed: Obviously Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians about operating orderly when it comes to the gifts is still to be adhered to. However, unlike in a traditional church service where there is a time limit for the service, in a house church believers are free to use their gifts in a more natural manner rather than a in a set time frame. For instance, perhaps someone has a word of knowledge, it is not nearly as distracting to speak this word in a house church setting as it would be to stand up and interrupt the pastor in a traditional church setting.
  9. Evangelism becomes more personal: Instead of the pastor giving a blanket offering of salvation, everybody is encouraged to share the Gospel in one way or another with any unbeliever that is present. Further more, nonbelievers are exposed to the Gospel through real-life situations, and not necessarily through a time of teaching when the invitation to repent is a footnote.

Cons

  1. It’s not “traditional”: It’s not traditional, which means its not going to be highly looked upon as a legitimate church. If you do choose to pursue this model, I would warn you of the probable “but that’s just a Bible study, not a real church” comment.
  2. You won’t become super popular: House churches are by nature a small setting. So while you wont become popular, you will be able to pastor more specifically. Your church won’t grow to a large number, and unless the house churches in the house church network decide to come together periodically for a larger meeting, you won’t be standing in front of a large crowd of people, but rather sitting among the sheep you faithfully pastor.
  3. You won’t reach a lot of people (quickly): Every pastor wants to reach a lot of people and to do that you have to invite a lot of people in. But with the house church you simply can’t do that. And I argue that this is actually a good thing. Obviously you still want to reach people, but you do so by training up other elders to host a congregation in their own home and when they do you joyfully give them some of your flock so that there is more room for new people. So while in the first three years of ministry you might not see a growth from 50 people to 300, you might see 6 elders raised up and sent out and that is a much healthier approach to discipleship.
  4. You will likely be bi-vo: While it is possible to be a full-time house church pastor, it probably isn’t the most practical plan. But again, this is good! Being bi-vocational allows you to have genuine friendships with people you meet everyday at work. Instead of being able to disengage from the culture around you, you are forced to be a part of it and to utilize it for the glory of God!

A lot more could be said in favor of this, like discipleship, discipline and communion but for brevity sake I’ll save that for a later post! However, I am becoming a more strong proponent of the house church model every day. I really believe it is one of the healthiest models. I have included a list of practical resources I have personally benefitted from as I have studied this model.

Resources for further study

  1. The House Church Book (Wolfgang Simpson)
  2. Everyday Church (Steve Timmis & Tim Chester)
  3. Total Church (Steve Timmis & Tim Chester)
  4. Housechurch.org
  5. Thecrowdedhouse.org
  6. Christfellowshipkc.org

Church Polity? Does It Matter?

I halfway jokingly tell people that I’m a theological half-breed. I was raised in a traditional Baptist church, went to a Baptist college, interned at a Reformed Baptist church, and now lead an Assemblies of God church. I’m an odd one for sure. To make matters worse, I’ve recently (within the last year or so) changed my understanding of ecclesiology, specifically concerning the leadership of the church. I have gone from growing up in a single pastor/deacon-led church as a child to a elder-led church to now leading a church that desires to be more like a Presbyterian church in leadership. In this post I want to explain why I am a Presbyterian in local church government.

Let me begin by laying out what I mean by a “Presbyterian in local church government”. To the best of my understanding, in the Presbyterian church polity, there are a plurality of elders. Within that group of elders are teaching elders and ruling elders. So some elders are more gifted in teaching, they share the bulk of the preaching and teaching (though all elders are apt and able to teach [1 Timothy 3:2]). Then there are those men who are extremely gifted in leading, making wise decisions, presiding over conflicts, and other administrative works. These men would be called “ruling elders”. Why? Because, simply put, they rule or exercise authority over the congregation.

This is important to me because I have almost no administrative ability in me. So I need someone to help me make wise decisions, to help me lead the church well. But is it biblical? That’s a great question to ask, because if its not a biblical model then we are just wasting time. Lets look at Scripture then, and see what God says about church polity.

In Ephesians 4:11 you will notice something peculiar. Paul distinguishes between a shepherd or pastor and a teacher. This is of much importance for us as we must now ask “Paul, what did you mean by splitting pastor and teacher up?” I believe that Paul is very precisely saying that these two positions are not one in the same, but rather are two distinct, even necessarily distinct, roles. Paul is showing us the need for more than one person in leadership. There needs to be men who watch over and care for the sheep and others who instruct or teach the Word.

Now look at Romans 12:8, here Paul writes about one who “leads”. Curiously, the word translated in the  ESV as “leads” is προΐστημι (proistēmi) and means “To stand before, preside, to be over, to rule”. I could be wrong, but that seems pretty straight forward to me. To further my case, notice the word in the text that is translated as “exhort”. In the KJV it is translated as “comfort” twenty-three times. It is also translated as “pray”, “entreat” and “call for”. It’s the idea of taking what is or has been taught (presumably the Gospel) and applying it to people’s lives. These elders pray for the church members and non-members alike. They regularly call for repentance for members and non-members. They entreat them “Come to Me (Christ) all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

To make my last point before I drive all of this home, look back just a few words and you will see the word “teaches”. If you remember, in Ephesians 4:11 Paul says Christ gave “shepherds and teachers”. What is the primary responsibility of a teacher? Is it to rule and reside? No, it is to teach. So within a church context, what responsibility would this teacher have? Teaching the Word of God!

Now, I know that earlier I said that all elders are required to be able to teach, and they are, however Scripture does not say that every elder’s gifting is a teaching gift. Some are given the gift of wisdom or perhaps knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8). It is the responsibility of the church to enable each elder to use his gifting in the best way possible and for the glory of God.

In conclusion, I am not only convinced that plural eldership is biblical, but that an eldership made up of elders entrusted with teaching the Scriptures and elders entrusted with ruling or leading the church is the most biblical model. I believe that establishing this model in your local church brings more health to it because it allows each elder to function within their gift setting. It frees up those who aren’t as strong in teaching from the burden of teaching, and it frees up those who aren’t strong in administration from having to do something they don’t feel strongly gifted in.

At the end of the day, church leadership is not as cut and dry as many of us try to make it out to be. The model I just described is my personal conviction, others differ from me but yet they still have a faithful plurality of elders who genuinely love and serve their local church. Make sure that whatever model you establish at your local church you are convinced by Scripture, and Scripture alone.

Soli Deo Gloria!

[Five] Lessons From A [Five-Point] Calvinist About Planting A Church With [Five] People

Church planting is hard work, so there is really no need to make it any harder than it should be. In this post I want to share with you the hand-full of lessons I have learned thus far in the nearly two months since I began the core group phase of launching Foundation Community Church.

  1. If you are married, make sure your spouse is 100% on board. I’m dead certain that if my wife was not completely on board with the start of Foundation, that I would’ve quit after a few weeks. While you may be the pastor, you can not separate your wife from you in ministry. Your wife is the only person who will shoot straight with you concerning ministry all the while seeking the best for you no matter what the circumstance is. More than that, if your spouse isn’t on board, then you will inevitably put unnecessary strain on your marriage. It’s hard enough to do ministry and be married, but with all the uncertainties of church planting, a marriage can become strained in a heartbeat.
  2. Don’t be discouraged the week that few to no people show up. The core group for Foundation averages about 6-7 people, so if a few people are sick or out of town it seems to be like dominos and they all tumble in succession. I had this happen to me two weeks ago and if I hadn’t had my wife on board I would’ve walked away from the church. It is demoralizing for no one to show up. But my wife kept reminding me that we have done zero advertising (though we plan to soon) so the only people who know about the church are those who we tell. Believe me, you’ll live even if you miss a service/group meeting here or there—I believe it’s one way to remind me that God runs the show and not me and that my plans won’t always work.
  3. Don’t let the absence of a particular ministry keep you from planting. I am in absolutely no way musically inclined. As a result I never really befriended musicians. So every week we sing songs via youtube. I know that many pastors would advise against this, however, I’ve seen it work before and it’s working for us. I obviously want a live band to lead worship, but until those people show up my options are 1) play songs off of youtube or 2) run everybody off with my singing. Clearly I’m opting for youtube! But this goes for just about every ministry within the church. Just because you don’t have a leader for the kids ministry doesn’t mean you should delay planting. We have one family that has a child and they want their son in the service, but at the same time I dream of having a “state-of-the-art” children’s ministry where to remember sometimes!
  4. Don’t be afraid to cover the basics. My first two series have been extremely basic. We did a four-part series on “What Is The Gospel” and I’m currently in the middle of a three-part series on “Exploring The Ekklesia” (click the link to listen to sermons [shameless plug]). Both series lay the foundation for the future of the church and helps to get everybody on the same page so that we all know what we’re about and why we do thing the way we do.
  5. Don’t be afraid to be different. I’m not your typical “Reformed” pastor (some will hesitate to call me Reformed at all based on what I’m about to say). I hold to a tighter view than most of the Normative Principle of Worship or a looser view than most of the Regulative Principle of Worship, depending on how you want to look at it. When I preached my “senior sermon” entitled “A Modern Day Prodigal Son” I played Brantley Gilbert’s song, by the same name, in order to give the audience something to attach the sermon to. During our current series on the church I’m beginning the sermon by playing “My Church” (you know, the Maren Morris song that plays constantly on the radio). I want to do everything that I possibly can in order to help people understand better, and remember longer, the Scriptures—and sometimes that means being creative, even if others think you’re pushing the limits.

 

I’ve learned a lot more than just five lessons, but these five lessons I believe are the most impactful lessons I’ve learned yet. Church planting is everything I ever dreamed it would be, and I want to be of help to anyone considering doing or currently doing the hard work of church planting. I’d love to help you however I can, please feel free to reach out to me!

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.