Church & Ministry

"Net-working" the Local Church

A look at the need

Several years ago, I remember a couple in the church we had attended that shocked the congregation by getting a divorce. They had been married almost twenty years, had five children, were active in attending all the church’s services on Sunday, going to Wednesday night Bible study, active in ministries, etc. By all accounts, everyone at church thought they were doing fine. Then out of nowhere, they got a nasty divorce where the wife took off and left the family and now has very little involvement even in the lives of her children. Needless to say, no one in that family is a part of that church any longer.

This is only one of multiple stories I could share of people who looked healthy externally when they showed up for church but eventually left their churches. They were besieged with various major spiritual problems that no one else in the church had a clue about. These issues have varied widely to areas such as adultery, children announcing to their family that they are gay, children running away from home, struggles with bitterness and anger, addictions such as alcohol and pornography, etc. Not limiting it to spiritual problems alone, I have also witnessed families struggling with layoffs, relocation, major health issues, vehicle issues, etc. These types of problems have caused enormous stress on families which result in spiritual strain. Many of these families were left to face these crises alone while the church found out too late about their burdens that needed bearing.

To be fair, I have seen individual members and whole congregations do an admirable job at stepping up to the plate to help those who are struggling either spiritually or physically and meeting these challenges as they come. Yet in each of these scenarios, instead of preventive discipleship, I have observed local churches take a reactionary approach to dealing with problems and issues that plague their congregations, acting only after a major calamity or church upheaval. For an example, why is it that churches that are having trouble meeting budget seem to be keenly interested in outreach and in the principle of financial stewardship? The reality of ministry is that the pastoral staff often has too little time to prevent, or shepherd through, every difficulty each person in their congregation faces. Often, pastors see the overwhelming burdens of their people (and I used to be one who thought this way) and think that the missing ingredient to these ministry challenges is the implementation of a new program or ministry to meet that need. I would argue that this proposed resolution is not adequate to meeting the problem. Read more about "Net-working" the Local Church

Barna reports declining church attendance, Bible reading, volunteering among "born agains"

Study: Born-Again Christians Have Become Complacent
“Barna Group clarifies the ‘born-again’ category as comprised of people whose beliefs characterize them as born-again and not based on people calling themselves ‘born-again.’ This group is now at 41 percent of all Americans, an increase of six percent since 1991.”


The Ordination of Men to the Ministry

Reprinted with permission from Faith Pulpit (Jan-Mar, 2011). Photo: Baptist Bulletin.

Ordination to the gospel ministry is a significant and solemn event in a man’s life.1 Churches should understand the Biblical teaching about ordination so they can conduct the procedure in a proper manner.

The General Pattern

Ordinations today generally follow the same pattern. The church, after observing its pastor or assistant pastor for a period of time, decides to call a council to consider the advisability of ordaining him. In addition to some of its own members,2 the church usually seeks the input of men from area churches.3 On the designated day the church and the council members convene to hear the candidate give his salvation testimony, state his call to the ministry, and express his doctrinal positions. In most cases, the individual prepares a written statement of each doctrine. During the session the candidate summarizes his views on each doctrine, followed by questions from the council members.

After the examination, the candidate is dismissed and the council members share their thoughts on the man. If the council is satisfied that he evidences a call to the ministry and is orthodox in his theology, it recommends to the church that it proceed with the ordination. The church then votes to ordain their pastor or assistant pastor at an upcoming service.

At the end of the ordination service, the deacons and ordained men in the congregation lay their hands on the man, formally setting him aside for the ministry. Read more about The Ordination of Men to the Ministry

Social Involvement without the Social Gospel

social250.jpgRepublished with permission from Baptist Bulletin May/June 2011. All rights reserved.

Can churches create compassionate social ministries in their communities without inadvertently becoming sidetracked from their essential gospel motivation?

The question is not new—a promising young German seminarian slipped down this path in the 1880s. “The idea came to me that I ought to be a preacher, and help to save souls. I wanted to go out as a foreign missionary—I wanted to do hard work for God,” Walter Rauschenbusch said in 1913. “Indeed, one of the great thoughts that came upon me was that I ought to follow Jesus Christ in my personal life, and die over again his death,…and it was that thought that gave my life its fundamental direction in the doing of Christian work” (Rauschenbusch, “The Kingdom of God” in The Social Gospel in America, 1870–1920).

Rauschenbusch, who began his ministry with an orthodox view of salvation, would later become known as “the father of the social gospel.” Regrettably, once he became pastor in the Hell’s Kitchen district of New York City, he preached a different gospel, altering his Biblical message to address social ills such as poverty, unemployment, and malnutrition. In the process, Rauschenbusch lost his emphasis on Christ’s atoning sacrifice for the sinner.

Even today Christians tamper with the gospel message, as Rauschenbusch did, applying his ideas to our modern problems. Read more about Social Involvement without the Social Gospel

Early Christian Decision-Making, Part 1: Did Americans Invent Church Voting?

There are legitimate questions for Christians to ask as they study their Bibles and become active in a church. Some questions are worth pursuing endlessly (questions about the character of Christ, for instance). Others have their limits, particularly when little or nothing is directly said in the Bible about them. As the discussion becomes long and drawn out, it also becomes, well, odd. We become either speculative or dogmatic without substance, since there is little in Scripture that substantiates our arguments. Whether Christians should vote, or did vote in the New Testament times is one of those types of questions. It is legitimate to ask, but limited in its worth. There is only one time in the Bible that Christians are directly said to have voted, where a proper Greek word for “vote” is used (2 Cor. 8:18-19). Read more about Early Christian Decision-Making, Part 1: Did Americans Invent Church Voting?