Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Developing a Vision Strategy

Our church has begun a process to clarify our mission and develop a vision strategy. Some people may find this process much ado about nothing, but in reality it is very critical to the future of our church. A mission statement is not the foundation or “brick and mortar” of the church- the Word of God is- but it does help to be more discerning about why we are a local church in the first place. It also helps us to recognize the uniqueness of our church and the unique way we can carry out the Great Commission in our specific context. I’ve been reading a book called The Healthy Small Church by Dennis Bickers (pgs 32-42) and he proposes four reasons why churches should flesh out their vision in something like a clarified mission statement:

1. Vision provides focus.
2. Vision unites the church.
3. Vision enables people to move beyond their own self-interests.
4. Vision allows the church to be proactive rather than reactive.

There are two things that I have noticed among some of our people that really concern me. I see complacency among some and aimlessness among others. Like many other churches wrestle with there is dangerous comfort level that hinders our drive toward fulfilling our gospel mission as a church. There are also many people doing many different things but not necessary out of a sense of direction or purpose. Our church is full of godly people and people who love the Lord, but we do not want to waste what God has given us here. We want to be people with a vision for what God has uniquely called us to. We want to let the Word continue to challenge us to not ease into complacency but press on as soldiers of truth in the last days. We want to be people who move together, in unity, with common purpose. Busy is not the same as effective. So we are trying to develop a mission statement and vision strategy to keep us on task and keep us accountable to be the church God has called us to be.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Past is Prologue

For those of you who do not go to our church or who do not attend our Sunday night service you may not know we have been expositionally going through Genesis 1-11. The title of my series is “The Past is Prologue” as I believe the “prologue” of the Bible is setting the stage for the whole redemptive and Messianic story of the Bible. This has been a really exciting study and our evening services are more laid back with Q/A after the message. A source I have recently tapped into the last week or so are the “Answers in Genesis” folks. Their website is chock full of great articles and interesting research. It isn’t “crazy Christian theories” that oppose science. They show through much research that science and the Bible are indeed in harmony concerning the events recorded in Genesis. Here is a funny cartoon from their site and the link to the site is below for your own research and reading.

Now go read "Answers in Genesis"!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Nourished on Sound Doctrine

In Southeast Texas the word catechism evokes a lot of nervousness from Baptists because of the reaction to the Roman Catholic application of catechism. However, catechism is a good and edifying thing particularly when it is used well and applied rightly. The word ‘catechism’ is from a Greek word that simply means, “to teach”. A catechism is a teaching tool that uses questions and answers for the student to memorize and is designed to summarize and teach key doctrines of the faith. That is essential to do in the home and in the church. Baptists need to reclaim this tradition and use it for the equipping of saints. Here is a link to some historic Baptist catechisms- please read.

I have been teaching a course on Wednesday nights at my church that covers our Church Constitution and its Biblical roots. This week is the last session and I have made up a mini catechism to summarize many of the key points of our study and to conclude the study. Here are the questions and answers…

Memorial Baptist Catechism

Q 1- What is our purpose as human beings?
A- To glorify God- Isaiah 43:7

Q 2- How are we to glorify God?
A- In every area of our lives- 1 Corinthians 10:31

Q 3- What keeps us from glorifying God?
A- Sin corrupts us in every way- Romans 3:23

Q 4- How are we restored to being a display of God’s glory?
A- Christ died so that we could be redeemed to glorify God- Romans 15:8-9

Q 5- What is our mission as a church?
A- To make disciples- Matthew 28:19-20

Q 6- To whom do we carry this disciple-making mission?
A- To all peoples- Acts 1:8

Q 7- How do we demonstrate the gospel of God as a church?
A- By proclaiming the Word of God- Romans 10:13-17
A- By modeling a culture of sacrifice- Romans 12:1-13

Q 8- Who owns our bodies?
A- Jesus Christ has purchased our bodies- 1 Corinthians 6:20

Q 9- Who owns this church?
A- Jesus Christ owns this church- Matthew 16:18

Q 10- How is our church governed?
A- We are congregationally governed- Acts 6:2-5

Q 11- How is our church led?
A- We are pastor led- Acts 20:28

Q 12- How does our church delegate ministry?
A- We delegate ministry through deacons, committees, and ministry teams- 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Church and Social Order

I want to briefly consider the issue of the church and its role in pursuing social justice. It is clear in Scripture that God wants His people to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 10:18; 14:29; 24:20-22; Isaiah 1:17; James 1:27). Our Church Constitution (ca. 1914) contains a statement on social order (which I suspect because of other statements in this document may have been motivated by a postmillennial viewpoint). Here is that statement:

Every Christian is under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in his own life and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Christ Jesus. The Christian should oppose in the spirit of Christ every form of greed, selfishness, and vice. He should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends, Christians should be ready to work with all men to good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of live without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.

I’ve been teaching through the Biblical roots and practical uses of our Church Constitution on Wednesday night in a study I’ve called “Firm Foundations”. Here are the points I am emphasizing to my church regarding this statement in our Constitution:

First we need to consider the gospel’s effects on society. The gospel transforms people which should transform communities and cities. The gospel’s effect on an individual should have an effect on the community the individual lives day to day. For example if a large church is baptizing over a hundred every year shouldn’t the crime go down? Shouldn’t the divorce rate decline? Shouldn’t more people be standing up for social justice, fight poverty, condemn racism and argue for the right to life of unborn children? The reason these effects don’t take place is because Christians often choose to compartmentalize their lives. They see the gospel and their salvation exclusively as an internal and heavenly thing.

Second we need to consider the spiritual realities of the world we live in. We must acknowledge that we live in a fallen world and sin will reign until Jesus establishes His millennial kingdom (I’m not a postmillennialist). Social justice as a result of the gospel and as a means of spreading the gospel is not the same as Christian Socialism. Our church provides a food bank once a month. We do this in part because it leads to direct witnessing opportunities- it is a foot in the door. We also do this because ending hunger and poverty is a natural overflow of the gospel’s effect on our own lives. The gospel reverses the effects of the curse.

Third (and most importantly) we need to consider what the gospel is and what it is not. Let’s not confuse the gospel. The gospel is not that men do good and compassionate things in society. The gospel is that which enables men to do good and compassionate things in society for the praise of God’s glory. The gospel is the satisfying of God’s holy wrath on sinners by the gift of God’s grace through the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross. Social justice is not the gospel. Social justice is a consequence of the gospel consuming a person’s life.