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When Someone Leaves a Church or is Disciplined – A Time of Vulnerability

Churches are incredibly vulnerable at particular historical moments. Because of this, church leaders need to carefully shepherd their flocks to prepare them for that flash point when temptations are many. After all, “the tongue is a fire” and “a world of iniquity” and is often “set on fire by hell” (James 3:1-12). This is why there are many opportunities for unrighteous fire in a church. How many? As many as there are tongues, but multiplied by all the conversations that are generated.

There are two very sensitive “moments” that need careful attention – when someone leaves or is disciplined. During these influential opportunities, church leaders, church members and onlookers have particular responsibilities before God to “preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” They need to be extremely sensitive to how the devil will attempt to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

When someone leaves your church

When a person leaves, when a key family leaves or when an elder, deacon or a gifted leader leaves the church has entered a season of hyper vulnerability. Each of these situations have their own particular challenges. Let me suggest that the damage done can escalate according to the degree of prominence of the person leaving or is disciplined.

It is always difficult on people when beloved families leave a church. Through it all, we ought to strive for gracious and humble goodbyes, instead of tearing into one another. “For the law is fulfilled in one word, even this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:14-15).

The vulnerability it creates for those who leave

Not only is a church like a “sitting duck” when someone leaves, the person or family who leaves faces a number of important decisions. He needs to grasp the fact that he has responsibilities before God to refrain from putting out a bad report. He needs to understand that, “whoever slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy” (Psalm 101:5).

The people leaving are also exposed in the sense that they may say things they should not – things that tear down and not build up – things that divide and defeat a spirit of love in the church.

The loaded messages you leave them with will stick in their minds for a long time. Even if you say nothing, just disappearing is also leaving a powerful message. The nature of goodbyes is important.

The challenges for the people who stay

The people who stay are probably the most vulnerable because they may feel hurt. They will inevitably grapple with feelings of confusion or anger or uncertainty. This can change people to vipers. Or it may make them feel insecure or that they have somehow missed something and they should leave too. These are the common responses that some people will have and they need to know their responsibility not to seek to use that as an excuse to find that tasty morsel that goes into the innermost parts of the belly (Proverbs 18:8).

When an elder leaves the church

When a key leader leaves, the people in the congregation are incredibly susceptible to a host of negative forces. Everyone in the church needs to be informed up front that if an elder (or even a family in the church leaves) they will be subject to temptations to anger, taking sides, gossip, speculation, rebellion, self righteousness, presumption, wrong conclusions and broken relationships. This situation is a perfect entry point for a host of misunderstandings. It is also a time where people are tempted to take a count of all the wrongs done to them by the people involved, instead of continuing to let them be covered over by love. When someone leaves it is almost inevitable that there will be a wake of hurt feelings. Most of the people will be asking: “Why are you leaving us? Why are you rejecting us? What is wrong with us? Who made you leave? Ok, what is the real story? Whose fault is this?”

Magnifying problems

In this environment it is common that people will magnify whatever real or perceived problems were there. They will be tempted to make too much of the problems that made the elder leave through speculation. Unfortunately, the sinful human mind often speculates in the wrong direction – toward disunity and anger and separating brothers.

A lust for information

There will be a few who will want to know more than they should know. People in our society believe that they are obligated to know everything about the situation. After all, we live in “gossip nation” where people feel they should know all the dirt. You will find that some people will be relentless in trying to get the “real” story. This lust for information often results in further fracturing of relationships.

But like many things where biblical communications should be followed, everyone is not entitled to know everything and there will always be some who will use this as a point of contention. It is here that a spirit of trust and honor toward those God has placed in authority be upheld.

In times like these, conversation should be tempered by the reality of the timing of the judgment of God. Paul said to the Corinthians, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God” (1 Cor 4:4).

Temptations for onlookers in the community

Fellow believers in the community also have responsibilities to the Church of Jesus Christ, wherever it is organized as a local church. One of the heartbreaking aspects of people leaving is that you can often expect that some people looking in from the outside, will speak confidently and condemningly about things they know very little about. Often they will judge your leaving either as further reason for condemnation of the ministry and will naturally be found saying hurtful things. People who have harbored hurts or who have an axe to grind are commonly among these onlookers.

When a church member is disciplined

This causes hundreds of dangerous conversations and opportunities to sin. There are two particular vulnerabilities that the devil will attempt to capitalize on. The person being disciplined can be sinned against through the unrighteous conversation of other church members.

Likewise the disciplined church member is extremely susceptible to unrighteous anger and lashing back and making a mockery of the action taken.

Further, people in the congregation will be tempted to dishonor and disobey the authorities God has established in the church. The reality is that church leaders do not see everything perfectly and may make mistakes or even sin. However this is not a valid excuse to escape their authority that God has established in a local church.

What should church leaders do in times like these?

Don’t leave them unprotected – take action. People in the church often need to be reminded of the power of the tongue for evil, for “the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell” (James 3:5-6).

If a church is unclear or untaught regarding the both the authority of the government of the church and the responsibility to govern the tongue, that church is extremely unsafe – poised for a terrible fire. It is a building ready to burn at the slightest spark.

Churches often never recover from the “tasty morsels” that went down to the “innermost being” (Proverbs 26:22). Reputations are destroyed, friendships are ruined. No one wins because love was not “covering” the “multitude of sins” and human failings that surfaced during these opportune moments.

Perhaps this is why Jesus issued very harsh warnings about the use of the tongue,

“Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:34-37).

How do you have loving goodbyes when it seems so hard and confusing? How do you react to someone leaving? In times like these, it is wise to heed the admonition,

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:29).

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Church and Family Issues – Is the church harmful to pastor’s families?

We have taken the position that churches are often harmful to the families of the church because of things like worldliness, over programming that makes family discipleship impossible from a schedule standpoint, and age segregation. But here is another way that churches are sometimes heartbreakingly harmful. They harm the family of the pastor. Here are some startling statistics on the matter:

• 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week

• 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Many pastor’s children do not attend church now because of what the church has done to their parents.

• 95% of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses.

• 33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.

• 75% report significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.

• 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.

• 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged as
role of pastors.

• 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they
thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.

• 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.

• 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.

• 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.

• 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.

• 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

• 33% confess having been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church.

• 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if
they could, but have no other way of making a living.

• 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.

• 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.

• 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.

• 94% of clergy families feel the pressures of the pastor’s ministry.

• 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.

• 80% spouses feel left out and underappreciated by church members.

• 80% of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose a different
profession.

• 66% of church members expect a minister and family to live at a higher moral standard than themselves.

• Moral values of a Christian is no different than those who consider themselves as non-Christians.

• The average American will tell 23 lies a day.

• The profession of “Pastor” is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman”.

4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.

• Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.

• Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month, many without cause.

• Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.

• Many denominations report an “empty pulpit crisis”. They cannot find ministers willing to fill positions.

#1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastor’s believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.

Statistics provided by The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc.

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William Gouge, on The Reason for Happy Churches and Families

Happy is that kingdom where Magistrates and subjects fear the Lord. Happy is that Church where Ministers and people fear the Lord. Happy is that family where husband and wife, parents and children, master and servants fear the Lord. In such a Kingdom, Church, and family, will everyone, to the mutual good one of another, submit themselves one to another.

William Gouge, “Domestical Duties, The Husband’s Part”

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The Family as a Bee Hive Sending Out Swarms of Bees

“The family is a seminary of the Church and Commonwealth. It is as a bee-hive, in which is the stock, and out of which are sent many swarms of bees: for in families are all sorts of people bred and brought up: and out of families are they lent into the Church and Commonwealth.”

William Gouge, “Domestical Duties”, in the section, “The Husband’s Part”

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The History of Christianity and Western Civilization – An Amazing Opportunity for only $59.00

[vimeo 11292927 581 327]

Here is a very unusual opportunity to Join my friend Doug Phillips on the European Faith and Freedom Tour.

I have been on many of these tours and let me tell you – they are fantastic. Not everyone has the resources to spend on a tour like this, but for only $59.00 you can gather your family together and learn, learn, learn. If you have always wanted to go on one of these tours, now is your chance. When I saw the announcement, I immediately signed up.

The first post will happen Tuesday May 4.

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A Church Covenant and Church Discipline

One of the important clauses in our church covenant, is the one that spells out how church discipline works:

We will, if necessary, submit to biblically defined and regulated church discipline for the purpose of reconciliation with God and man and we accept that refusing to communicate or to flee is to usurp the power of the church and break this covenant. Matt. 18:15:20, Heb 12:11, 1 Cor 5:1-13, 1 John 2:19, 1 Timothy 1:20, 2 Cor 2:1-11, Luke 17:4

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The Regulative Principle in Practice – A Concise Statement from “The Deliberate Church” by Mark Dever

“Working contrary to God’s processes often means working contrary to His purposes.”

–     Mark Dever, The Deliberate Church, pg 28

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Our Church Covenant

Considering Church Covenants – Here is ours

A church covenant is only good so long as it binds members to one another for established commands and patterns of scripture. Church covenants should not bring anything new or innovative into the lives of church members. Rather, is should highlight explicit commands and principles that God has already spoken.

Hope Baptist Church Membership Covenant

Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God, to repent, believe and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, and profess our allegiance to Him, having been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we do now, in the presence of God, angels and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ. Acts 2:38, Mark 9:23, John 11:26 Heb.11:6,John 1:12-13, I Pet. 2:6, Matt. 28:19-20 Romans 8:1

We will work and pray for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love. 1 Cor 13:1-13, Eph. 4:1-6, John 13:34

We will seek the salvation of our kindred, acquaintances and strangers who have not repented for saving faith in Christ; to be in prayer for the spiritual awakening of the lost in our community, and to be a faithful witness of the gospel both here and to the remotest part of the earth. Matt. 28:19, Luke 24:44-48, Acts 1:3-8. Gen 12:3
We will strive for the advancement of this Church in knowledge, holiness and comfort; to promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline and doctrines; and to submit to its leaders as they are faithful to Christ. Hebrews 10:24-25, Hebrews 13:17, I Thess.4:12-15

We will contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the Church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the Gospel through all nations. I Cor. 9:1-27, Prov. 15:15, Job 34:19, Matt. 5:3, Mark 10:21, Luke 4:18
We will not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, nor neglect to pray for ourselves and others; nor avoid the meetings of the church. Hebrews 10:25, Hebrews 5:5, Acts 2:42-47

We will also maintain family and private devotions; to educate our children in the Christian faith and demonstrate the love of Christ in all of our household relationships. Eph. 6:1-4 Psalm 78 Deut. 6:1-9

We will watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember one another in prayer; to aid one another in sickness and distress; to walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment. Matt 19:15-20 Col. 2:9-10, Eph.5:1-2, Eph. 6:18

We will abstain from gluttony, drunkenness, illicit drugs, materials, entertainments or practicing things which jeopardize our own or another’s faith. Psalm 1:1-6, Eph. 5:3-12, Col: 3:1-17, II Cor. 12:20, Romans 1:30, Lev. 19:16, Eccl. 10:11, Galatians 5:21, Deuteronomy 21:20, 1 Corinthians 6:10, Proverbs 23:21, Psalm 101:1-2

We will cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech; strive to avoid all scriptural prohibitions, such as tattling, backbiting and unrighteous anger; to refrain from speaking evil of one another; to be slow to take offense; to think the best of one another; and always ready for biblical reconciliation and mindful of the rules of our Savior to secure it without delay so far as it depends upon us. Psalm 19:14 Psalm 34:13-14, Eph. 4:29, I Peter 3:8-12, Matt 5:21-26, Titus 3:10, Prov 26:20-26

We will, if necessary, submit to biblically defined and regulated church discipline for the purpose of reconciliation with God and man and we accept that refusing to communicate or to flee is to usurp the power of the church and break this covenant. Matt. 18:15:20, Heb 12:11, 1 Cor 5:1-13, 1 John 2:19, 1 Timothy 1:20, 2 Cor 2:1-11, Luke 17:4

We will, when we move from this place, if possible, unite with a church which upholds the “Essential Doctrines” defined in the church constitution and where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant.

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The NCFIC at Mass Hope

We give thanks to God for the folks at Heritage Christian Church for representing the NCFIC at the Massachusetts homeschool conference last week.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Seven Characteristics of Highly Evangelistic Christians

 

Here is a wonderful summary of the kind of people we ought to be – The Seven Characteristics of Highly Evangelistic Christians.

“For over twenty years I have been researching and studying churches, primarily those in North America. I had the joy of serving as senior pastor in four churches where God blessed with evangelistic growth. I have written over twenty books about the church in America.

I am not giving you my credentials to impress you, but simply to share that my life’s passion has been leading and learning about evangelistic churches. At this point in my life and ministry, however, I realize that I have not given sufficient attention to one of the primary characteristics of evangelistic churches.

The Great Omission

It is so obvious. Indeed it is so clear that I am surprised at my neglect of this factor. Stated simply, the evangelistic churches that I have researched for the past twenty years have one or more highly evangelistic Christians.

I know. The previous statement is no great revelation. It is almost stating the obvious. But, if it is reality, why are we not hearing more about these Christians who seem to have a passion for evangelism? Why are we not doing a better job of telling their stories?

In this short article I hope to address this great omission.

Seven Characteristics

It is inevitable that, when we do research on evangelistic churches, we learn about one or more members in the church who, to use the book title by Charles H. Spurgeon, embody the traits of “The Soul Winner.” Oftentimes one of those members is the pastor. But we have also seen many laypersons who are themselves soul winners.

In our interviews with these people, or with those who tell us about the soul winners, we began to discern some clear patterns. We called those patterns “the seven characteristics of highly evangelistic Christians.”

1. They are people of prayer. They realize that only God can convict and convert, and they are totally dependent upon Him in prayer. Most of the highly evangelistic Christians spend at least an hour in prayer each day.

2. They have a theology that compels them to evangelize. They believe in the urgency of the gospel message. They believe that Christ is the only way of salvation. They believe that anyone without Christ is doomed for a literal hell.

3. They are people who spend time in the Word. The more time they spend in the Bible, the more likely they are to see the lostness of humanity and the love of God in Christ to save those who are lost.

4. They are compassionate people. Their hearts break for those who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They have learned to love the world by becoming more like Christ who has the greatest love for the world.

5. They love the communities where God has placed them. They are immersed in the culture because they desire for the light of Christ to shine through them in their communities.

6. They are intentional about evangelism. They pray for opportunities to share the gospel. They look for those opportunities. And they see many so-called casual encounters as appointments set by God.

7. They are accountable to someone for their evangelistic activities. They know that many good activities can replace Great Commission activities if they are not careful. Good can replace the best. So they make certain that someone holds them accountable each week, either formally or informally, for their evangelistic efforts.

The “Secret” of Evangelistic Churches

The secret is really no secret at all. Ultimately, evangelistic churches see more persons become Christians through the passionate efforts of highly evangelistic Christians. More than any programs. More than any church events. More than anything else, we are the instruments God has chosen to use.

Sometimes we ask the question “What is my church doing to become more evangelistic?” But the better question is “What am I doing to become more evangelistic?”

Charles H. Spurgeon was right. We need more soul winners.

We need more highly evangelistic Christians.

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Memorial Day Picnic – Monday May 31

It’s that time again… You are invited to an Old Fashioned Memorial Day Picnic at the Brown Farm where the food and the speeches and fellowship and the gospel are all free.
Click HERE to find out more.

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The Differences Between the Westminster Confession and the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689

The world has been blessed by the Westminster Confession of Faith. It has been a bulwark in the defense of biblical Christianity. Here is an amazing web site that shows the differences between it and the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith in a very helpful and illuminating format. It is called, A Tabular Comparison of the 1646 WCF and the 1689 LBCF.

The NCFIC is regularly exhorting church leaders to provide doctrinal clarity to the people in their churches by adopting a historical confession of the faith. Of course, we at the NCFIC heartily recommend the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689. We contend that a church without a detailed doctrinal confession is a vulnerable to ignorance, confusion, wolves and apostasy.

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Our Team With The Elders and Deacons at Immanuel Free Reformed Church

The weekend was filled with meetings with the church family and the elders and deacons at Immanuel Free Reformed Church in Stevens, Pa. If you live in this area, I recommend this as a sound church to attend.

We had a team of ten with us from Hope Baptist and were blessed by their hospitality and kindness towards us and receptivity to our teaching. It was such a happy time together.

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Fallout from the Sufficiency of Scripture Conference

Here is a note I received Thursday from a pastor who attended the SOS conference we had last December,

The Sufficiency of Scripture conference in December is still affecting my wife and I in so many ways. Never before has a conference so effectively brought the truth of God’s word into our daily living, into the very way we think and act. So many times a conference is very encouraging, but the euphoria dissipates quickly, and the net change in our lives is not that significant. Not this conference. The rubber really hit the road in the months that have followed, which I believe is a testimony to how much the Lord is using the NCFIC.” G.B.

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Here are the “Pillars” of Hope Baptist

 

The Centrality of the Gospel – All activities and messages of the church have their source in the gospel of Christ, that sinners are justified by faith alone, that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers by God’s decree alone, and that this righteousness is the only righteousness that justifies and that faith that is true faith is evidenced by works. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Revelation 14:6-7)

Expository Preaching – We believe that a steady diet of expositional preaching is the most effective way to build up the body of Christ. Preaching and teaching through books of the Bible will be the primary emphasis of this ministry (Deut 6:4-9; Ezra 7:10; Neh 8:1-12; Matt 4:4; 1 Tim 4:13; 2 Tim 3:14-4:5; Titus 1:3, 9; Heb 4:12; 1 Peter 1:22-2:3).

Fervent Prayer – Every aspect of the church’s life and ministry ought to be under girded with regular, fervent prayer. Elements of a godly prayer life (individually and corporately) include: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and intercession (Neh 1; Psalm 51; Matt 6:5-15; Luke 19:46; Phil 1:3-11; Col 1:3-12; James 5:13-18).

Authentic Worship – Authentic worship of the living God is marked by biblical truth, personal and corporate genuineness and spiritual depth. Elements of worship include prayer, singing, Scripture reading and preaching and the Lord’s table (Psalm 24, 33, 42, 95; Isa 6:1-8; Matt 4:10; John 4:24; Rom 12:1-2; Heb 13:15; Rev 4-5; 1 Cor 11:23-34).

Loving Community – We will cultivate Christian love, rejoicing, unity and community in the family of God through mentoring relationships, benevolence and biblical instruction (Acts 2:44-47; 6:1-7; Eph 4:1-16; 1 Tim 5:3-8; 2 Tim 2:2; Titus 2:3-5; James 1:27).

Church Discipline – We will exercise biblical church discipline administered in a spirit of obedience and humility and believe that this practice protects the purity of the church and offers restoration to the wayward (Prov 28:13; Matt 5:23-24; 18:15-20; 1 Cor 5:6-8; 11:17-34; Gal 6:1-5; Eph 5:25-27).

Personal Evangelism – We will equip and send the church into the community to bring the message of the cross to our own households, neighborhoods, workplaces and the world (Matt 28:19-20; John 20:31; Acts 4:12; Rom 10:14-15; 1 Peter 3:15).

Church Planting – . We will make intentional efforts to reach the world for Christ by praying, giving, going and planting as we rejoice in God’s plan to be a blessing to the nations. (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 13-14, 16-21).

The Sufficiency of Scripture – We will regard scripture as sufficient for life and godliness, so it must be consulted for all things. We will use it for reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness to speak into the lives of those in the congregation.

The Regulative Principle – We will attempt to regulate church life by scripture alone recognizing that God has instituted in the Scriptures everything He requires for worship in the Church and that everything else is prohibited. Therefore, the only permissible elements of worship are those that are instituted by command, precept, or example or by good and necessary consequence and that whatever is not warranted by scripture is forbidden.

This is another way of saying that Christ has authority over His church through the Word of God (Matt 16:18; Romans 1:16; 10:17.)

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