"A LifeWay Research survey sponsored by the Center for Church Revitalization at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary finds majorities of those who attend U.S. Protestant or non-denominational churches at least monthly agree with the two sentiments that are seemingly in conflict." - Facts & Trends
By Roy E. Knuteson. From Baptist Bulletin (September/October 2008); used by permission. © Regular Baptist Press, all rights reserved.
Years ago a minister was called “the parson,” meaning “the person.” He was a VIP. He was honored as the preacher of the gospel, a molder of public opinion, and the conscience of the community. Not so today. A recently published survey revealed the most respected people in the average American community. Ministers ranked far down on the list, behind doctors, judges, psychologists, civic leaders, and police officers. Why?
No doubt the widespread sexual and financial scandals among members of the clergy have seriously affected the public opinion of them. Unfortunately, many pastors are mere puppets, moved by the whims of their parishioners. Some are controlled by a few strong laypeople, and others are “religious politicians” instead of prophets of God. Fortunate is the congregation whose pastor speaks “the very words of God” (NIV, 1 Peter 4:11) and diligently leads the church.
We believe that the Bible words “elder” and “bishop” refer to and include the pastor (or pastors) of a local church. Each of these titles reveals a facet of his divine calling. As an elder, he is to provide mature, responsible leadership. As the bishop, he is to be the general manager, providing careful oversight of the Lord’s work. And as the pastor, he is charged with caring for and feeding the flock of God (Acts 20:28).
On a Sunday afternoon in January, 2009, about 80 people gathered in Asheboro, NC, to officially constitute Providence Baptist Church. The culmination of more than four years of labor and prayer, the time had come, and a host of attenders and friends joined to celebrate the joyous occasion.
In a real sense, Providence Baptist began with Beacon Baptist, which itself was officially born on a similar occasion in 1973. Over the years, Beacon has grown numerically and doctrinally into the church we are today. Along the way, people began attending from locations beyond Alamance County. Drawn to the expository pulpit and reformed theology, some have driven regularly up to ninety miles one way to worship with us on the Lord’s Day.
Several folks came from Asheboro, about forty-five miles south of Burlington, becoming faithful members for several years in spite of the long commute. However, it is difficult to participate fully from such a distance, and how do you invite family and friends to join you when you travel forty-five to fifty minutes to church?
Thom Rainer: In order to help create greater awareness, I have described illustratively seven personality types of sick churches. For certain, no one church is a perfect illustration of any one type. But I am confident you will recognize churches that have taken on one of these seven as a dominant personality type.
Apparently some are all “shook up” over the practice of greeting visitors during worship services. A variety of polls suggests that most visitors are extremely uncomfortable with this practice. Studies also suggest that many faithful church attendees are also uncomfortable with the practice of greeting the familiar, as well as those who may be new, in the ebb and flow of a church service.
Granted, there is clearly no Scriptural command to include a one minute and twenty-seven second opportunity in the worship service for greeting those you know or don’t know. There are a few passages though that speak to a practice of greeting one another with the “right hand of fellowship” (Galatians 2:9) and in other cases an “agape kiss” (1 Peter 5:14). However, these passages seem to simply report what was done and are not included to give a clear imperative for universal and normative church practice (though it’s enough to convince me of the benefit).