Church & Ministry

The Church’s Time to Shine

Prior to 2020, there was only one stretch of time in my life when people ceased from their normal routines and showed a profound interest in spiritual things.

That, of course, was in the days following Sept. 11, 2001. The response was palpable. It was overwhelmingly patriotic, unifying and somber. People also turned their minds toward eternity. In fact, their reaction was so robust in those early days and weeks after the terrorist attacks that some even pondered if we were witnessing the beginnings of a genuine revival.

In short order, however, people returned to their old routines. To say that any heartfelt response was short-lived would be a severe understatement. Church pews—filled to overflowing for just a few weeks after 9/11—were comfortably empty quickly enough. We said we would “never forget” the lessons we learned on that awful Tuesday morning. But we greatly overestimated our resolve—at least from a spiritual perspective. For the most part, it’s long forgotten.

But this time is so much different. The majority of my service with The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry has taken place since the world went into crisis mode, initially in March of 2020. I can testify that the response that people have shown over the last 18 months—while much more subtle than their behavior 20 years ago—is also considerably more profound and thoughtful.

Churchgoers may not be packing the pews these days—in fact, they may even be viewing the services from the comfort of their own homes. But many of them are interested and asking questions as never before.

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From the Archives – 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).

Do not take me to mean that church order is unimportant. If you would look in my library at how many books I have on the subject, Church/Church Order, you would immediately understand that I do not take it lightly. There are several themes in the subject of Church Order which I am convinced are worthy of lengthy pursuit. One, for instance is church discipline. Another, the one I want to talk about, is group decision-making among Christians. Taking votes is one way of making a group decision. There are others. From a biblical perspective, the significant idea for churches is not vote-taking, but group decisions.

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“Think long-term, at least twice as long as you think you need.”

"South Korea was well equipped, with technology and infrastructure, to go online. We did it immediately. But most of us thought it would be temporary. So that’s the first bit of advice—don’t think it will be one or two weeks. It will more likely be two months or more." - What South Korean Christians Want You to Know About Coronavirus

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From the Archives – Ministry Success & The Great Commission

A two-fold assumption is often evident when believers are evaluating the effectiveness of churches, ministries, movements, and denominations. The assumption is, first, that the Great Commission is the standard of measurement and, second, that the way to apply the standard is to count the number of people who are hearing the gospel or are being brought into worship services.

Certainly it’s exciting when thousands gather for worship and hear the gospel. If they’re doing so in multiple locations linked by cutting edge video technology, many see that as progress into a new and wonderful future for the body of Christ.

But exciting and wonderful in our estimation isn’t always exciting and wonderful in God’s—even when our hearts are in the right place. Four principles argue that if we’re going to evaluate churches, ministries, and movements in a way that approximates God’s evaluation, we’ll have to consider more than the Great Commission, understood as number of souls reached.

1. The Great Commission is not all there is.

The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8) says nothing directly about worship or about the people of God as a worshiping community. Still, nobody questions that the NT church is worshiping community. However, many do doubt—or at least fail to fully appreciate—how vital the united, exclusive, divinely-regulated worship of God is to the identity and health of a local church.

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Children, Church Membership, and the Implications of Ephesians 6:1

Reposted from It Is Written.

Should we allow minors into the membership of the church? Most evangelical churches would, without hesitation, answer this question affirmatively. Those that practice infant baptism believe the Bible warrants the inclusion of the children of believers into the membership of the church de jure. On the other hand, many Baptist churches today pressure young children to “make a decision for Christ” and accept such decisions or professions of faith without careful reflection on credibility.

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Power of Problems vs. Power of God

In the mid-1700s Jonathan Edwards was serving as the pastor of a thriving church in Northampton, Massachusetts. He had been a faithful and hardworking pastor for 22 years. Though his gifts were clearly more academic than pastoral, he loved his flock, served them, prayed for them, and preached some of the most influential sermons in history from their pulpit.

Edwards has been credited by historians as having a leading role in starting the Great Awakening in which 10s of 1,000s became genuinely and noticeably converted. His famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God was the spark that ignited the movement. And yet he remained the faithful pastor of a relatively small congregation… until 1749, when something made him leave his flock after 22 years.

What happened? Simple: they fired him.

Edwards wanted to insist that communion could only be taken by people who had evidence that they were, in fact, Christians but this was against the church’s tradition of allowing anyone, no matter how blatantly unrepentant they were, to partake in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

Edwards was dismissed but then agreed to continue on as their pastor until they found a replacement, which took a year.

Can you imagine the hurt and betrayal he must have felt? Most of us would have spiraled into depression, cynicism, or bitterness. But Edwards remained cheerful, content, serene through the whole ordeal. How did Edwards survive the humiliating, unfair, and devastating dismissal?

His happiness was out of the reach of his enemies.

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