Church & Ministry

Book Review - Loving the Church

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Image of Loving the Church: God's People Flourishing in God's Family
by John Crotts
Shepherd Press 2010
Paperback 140

“I’m a member of the body of Christ. Why should I have to join a church?” In one form or another, this is one of the most common sentiments that I have heard in the past five years of ministry in Colorado Springs. A simple but profound part of the answer to that question can be given in one word—“love.”

It is no secret that American individualism has left its mark on the way we practice our Christianity, particularly with regard to the church. Some have gone so far as to say that American evangelicalism has no ecclesiology. In recent years a loose crowd has coalesced of those who not only tacitly accept churchless Christianity but explicitly promote it. From the vantage point of my little prairie dog mound surrounded by mountainous para-church ministries, it can almost appear that there are few left who believe that the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church is actually something tangible that has biblical shape and includes real commitments to real people. Many love the church like a young girl who has watched too many romantic movies—they are passionate about something that does not exist except in their own fevered imaginations.

In that context, the title of this recent book by John Crotts, a pastor at Faith Bible Church in Sharpsburg, Georgia, caught my attention, and I must say that reading it was refreshing. This is a book designed to woo the believer into loving the actual bride for whom Christ died. In Loving the Church, Pastor Crotts aims “to help you see how glorious God’s family really is, and then to see the countless ways you and your family can flourish within it” (p. 30). Crotts seeks to accomplish this with one section summarizing the Bible’s teaching about the church and a second section applying this teaching to Christians and their families.

The thread that holds the book together is a series of fictional coffee shop conversations among a diverse group of professing Christians who are disaffected with the church for various reasons. In between their encounters, Crotts lays out some simple and clear Scriptural teaching on the nature and function of the local church. With this approach, Crotts gives a gentle rebuke to some common errors regarding the church while maintaining a positive and encouraging tone. For example, he stirs up reflections about the relationship of families vis-à-vis the church, about ministering apart from the church, about moral failures and churches’ responses, and about choosing a church because of its use of technology or its singles’ group. Read more about Book Review - Loving the Church

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The Philippian Model of the Christlike Servant

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But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. 20 For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. 22 But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. 23 Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. 24 But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly. (KJV, Phil. 2:19–24)

Just as in Paul’s time, today we have a large number of would-be spiritual leaders who should be rejected as unworthy guides to God and eternity. Though some are unorthodox and easy to spot, many are orthodox but possess subtler problems of character that ought to be just as disqualifying. In Phillippians 2 Paul references problems of practice and character that should remove someone from spiritual leadership. A quick look at five thoughts the Holy Spirit gives us in this passage will help clarify whom we should accept for spiritual oversight,1 and whom we should not.

1. Likemindedness (Phil. 2:20)

“Likeminded” (or like-souled: ισοψυχος, isopsuchos) is a new word to Paul’s readers, never before appearing in his writings and not to appear again in Scripture. It’s a word of comparison, and a word of creation. Though the KJV uses the word “mind,” the second half of the word is actually “soul.” Since God knows the difference, it will be helpful to remember. Read more about The Philippian Model of the Christlike Servant

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The New Ways of Doing Church

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I will never forget that early spring day in 1996 when I attended a pastors’ conference to hear Dr. Warren Wiersbe. I had grown significantly as a Christian on Wiersbe’s teaching and writings, but this was my first opportunity to see him in person. I was like a kid catching a foul ball at a big league game when Wiersbe tapped me on the shoulder before the first session and blurted out, “What are you preaching on these days?”

The conference made a profound impression on me—but not just because Wiersbe was kind enough to talk to me and sign my copy of one of his books. His subject—“Piloting on a Sea of Change”—left an imprint in my mind and gave me a reference point to which I still return.

Wiersbe used Heb. 12:25-29 as his main text. “God is shaking things,” his inimitable voice spoke—complete with drawn-out syllables. I summarized as follows in my notes: “God shakes things so that things we think are important are taken away, and what is left is only what is truly important.”

The World is Changing

Indeed, God is shaking things. Issues in the life of the church that Wiersbe alluded to back then have grown to full bloom in the last 14 years. It is now common for congregations to offer “a new way of doing church.” Read more about The New Ways of Doing Church

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Baptism in History, Part 1

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The very early tradition of the Christian church

An examination of baptism in the first few centuries of the church brings up many questions. The most important of these is, what did the Apostles teach in Scripture? But both paedobaptists1 and credobaptists can easily read Scripture in light of their own tradition. This series focuses on history. What was the very early tradition of the Christian church? Part 1 focuses on the period closely following the completion of Scripture. In this period, each writer has either first-hand or second-hand exposure to an Apostle. Part 2 will explore the next period: what was taught and practiced between the very early church era and Augustine? Part three will focus on Augustine: what was Augustine’s contribution to the doctrine of baptism?

Eusebius: “brought up” then baptized

What did those with close exposure to the Apostles teach? In The History of the Church, written in the 4th century, Eusebius relates this story:

When the tyrant was dead [Diocletian, A.D 96], and John [the Apostle]…used to go when asked…sometimes to appoint bishops, sometimes to organize whole churches, sometimes to ordain one person of those pointed out by the Spirit…. [He] finally looked at the bishop and indicating a youngster he had noticed, of excellent physique, attractive appearance, and ardent spirit, he said, ‘I leave this young man in your keeping’…. [T]he bishop accepted him and promised everything…the cleric took home the youngster entrusted to his care, brought him up…and finally gave him the grace of baptism.2

Read more about Baptism in History, Part 1
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