Thursday, February 01, 2007

ten things i stole about you

On saturday i'm going to Above Bar Church to co-lead a seminar for Reading CU cell leaders, something that i'm very excited about and that i view as a real priviledge. One of the things me and Nicola are doing is helping Cell Leaders think about the local church. Here are ten things about what sort of church we should look for from Josh Harris' book 'stop dating the church'
as ever all the good stuff is from Josh, anything a bit dodgy is mine. Go and buy his book, it's really good.

We need to be involved, regularly attending and serving at one local church. Just one. None of this ‘one church for the worship and one for the teaching’ nothing about ‘I go here in the morning and here in the evening’ both those attitudes make you impossible to pastor and keep accountable, and show a terrible lack of regard for what God’s plan for the church is.

So here are ten things from ‘Stop Dating The Church’ by Josh Harris.

1. Is it a church where God’s word is faithfully taught?
2 Timothy 3:16 says ‘all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof for correction and training in righteousness.’ So we need to be part of a church where God’s word is submitted to. Most churches give a non to scripture, in notices and preaching, but its more than that. Donald Whitney says ‘the sort of church we want to be part of is one where, when the Bible is read at the beginning of a sermon we can be sure that what follows will be built upon it. God knows what’s best for our hearts, and He made our hearts for the Word of God. Nothing nourishes us like His message’. So we need to be in a church where the Bible is faithfully taught.

2. Is this a church where sound doctrine matters?
Acts 2:42 tells us that the first believers ‘devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching’, and we have that teaching today in the Bible. The word ‘doctrine’ may sound dull and boring, but doctrine is simply what the Bible says about any given subject. So it’s important. We need to be in a church that is firm in believing and teaching Biblical truth, where what the Bible says makes a difference. We should be able to agree with what our church teaches on a subject.

3. Is this a church where the Gospel is cherished and proclaimed?
We need to be in a church where it is explained how the work of Christ makes a daily difference in our lives. The Gospel is the announcement of Jesus perfect life, sacrificial death and risen Lordship. We don’t need to be told that we are loveable people in need of a relationship, we need to be told that we are sinners and our only hope of escaping God’s wrath is though the grace of Jesus. Spurgeon says ‘don’t go where it is all fine music and grand talk, those things will neither feed the stomach nor nourish the soul. Go where the Gospel is preached, where it feeds your soul, and go often’

4. Is this a church committed to reaching non-Christians with the Gospel?
Jesus commissioned every follower to go and reach people with the Gospel, so we need to part of a church that not only celebrates the Gospel, but is dedicated to reaching people with it. Without an emphasis on evangelism churches will become selfish and inward looking, the clear message of the Gospel should never be changed to make it more marketable however. People are never served by a church that is more concerned with being marketable than faithful.

5. Is this a church where the leaders are characterised by humility and integrity?
No pastor is perfect, but we need to find men who we can trust and follow. 1 Timothy lists the Biblical qualifications for leadership, things including being above reproach, sober minded, self controlled, hospitable, gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. These are all personal things, as no amount of training in the world is as important as a Godly character. The most effective, Biblical leaders view themselves and servants, stay accountable and don’t view themselves as immune to sin.

6. Is this a church where people strive to live by God’s word?
No church will ever perfectly obey God’s word. What is important is a church where people try to live as well as believe rightly. Our faith and our desire to honour God should affect everything we do and if it doesn’t, something is wrong. The church we want to be a part of it will be one that seeks to hear and obey God’s word, and not just win converts but disciple people according to God’s Word.

7. Is this a church where I can find and cultivate Godly relationships?
We need relationships that give us encouragement and accountability and help us to grow and an essential part of living God’s way is being connected to other Christians. We want to be in a church which provides a setting for fellowship, encouragement and application of scripture. This will look different at different churches. We need to be able to invest in relationships with people at our church…so it needs to be local.

8. Is this a church where members are challenged to serve?
Pastor’s aren’t people paid to do ministry at the expense of the members of the church. Ephesians 4:12 says that Pastors are to equip the saints for ministry. So we want to be in a church where we are encouraged and challenged to serve. That’s not to say we should look for the best way to showcase our talents, but that we should be in an environment where service is looked for, and cheerfully given.

9. Is this a church that is willing to kick me out?
This may sound old fashioned but we want to be in a church that will remove us from membership if we backslide into unrepentant sin. Disciple in important in the community of believers, and something instituted by Jesus in Matthew 18. We can gain a huge amount of confidence from being in a church that will lovingly confront us with God’s word when we commit some scandalous sin, and that having given us time would plead with us to change, and then if we were still unrepentant, lovingly kick us out and treat us as an unbeliever as in 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Corinthians 2. This is not to be treated lightly, but we all know that hypocrisy can destroy a church and any church committed to glorifying God will value and define membership. We want to be able to know who is a part of the church and who isn’t. Disciple is important to guard against false teachers and heresies.

10. Is this a church I’m willing to join ‘as is’ with trust and faith in God?
We shouldn’t marry someone with the aim of trying to change them into the person we want them to be, and so neither should we join a church with the aim of overhauling it. We need to be in a church that we can be excited about, that we can join with faith in God and trust in it’s mission. Leave your gripes and complaints at the door and get involved!

If you feel a bit overwhelmed by 10 points, just have three. Join a church, one local church, and these are the non-negotiables:
• A church that teaches God’s word
• A church that values God’s word
• A church that lives God’s word

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