The Real Tragedy in the Church

The tendency today is to minimize truth in favor of organization, and men are telling us with unwearied reiteration that the greatest tragedy of the world is the disunited church. But the tragedy, the greatest tragedy, as I understand the New Testament, is not the disunity of the church, is not the fact that the church is divided into groups and denominations, is not that we are not all in one organization, but that all the sections are preaching a false message and there has been a departure from the truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. If we were all brought together and formed into one organization, that is no guarantee that the message preached would be true.

– Lloyd-Jones, Expository Sermons on 2 Peter, p. 128.


Eight Convictions about the Local Church

Here’s a good roadmap for a church to follow:

  1. BIBLE: The word of God does the work of God through the Spirit of God in the people of God;
  2. LOCAL CHURCH: The local church is the primary place where the Kingdom of Heaven impacts the kingdoms of this world;
  3. EXPOSITORY PREACHING: Consecutive expository preaching by the pastor-teacher is the best normal diet of the local church;
  4. MEETINGS: The meetings of the local church are for both edification and evangelism (with no sharp distinction between these)
  5. MINISTERS: The ministers of the local church are all its members;
  6. FOCUS: The local church should focus on doing a few things really well;
  7. SACRIFICE: The local church exits for the sake of others;
  8. PRAYER: Prayer lies at the heart of the local church.

– Mark Ashton, former pastor of St. Andrews the Great (StAG), quoted in Persistently Preaching Christ; Fifty Years of Bible Ministry in a Cambridge Church, p 13.

Concerning the Visible Unity of the Church

Unity should be evident in the way Christians talk to and about one another, in forbearance and forgiveness, in fellowship of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. It involves a recognition of our brotherhood in baptism and a practice of table fellowship. It is a unity in faith, in life, in practice, in water and bread. An invisible unity is not a biblical unity. Visible division is incompatible with the New Testament’s portrayal of the church.

– Peter Leithart, The End of Protestantism: Pursuing Unity in a Fragmented Church, p. 21 (emphasis added).

Concerning the Nature and Purpose of Church Authority

While chosen and recognized by the people, church elders receive their authority through the Holy Spirit who called them, endued them, and appointed them for service (Acts 20:28). Service, not power or prestige, is the purpose of church officers, as of all believers. The Christian follows his Lord in the way of the cross. Jesus repeatedly reversed the disciples’ thinking. They sought worldly greatness – places of honor in his kingdom; but he asked if they could drink his cup of suffering, and told them that he came, not to be served, but ‘to serve and to give his life a ransom for many’ (Matt. 20:25-28).

Peter learned that lesson, and he later warned elders not to lord it over those entrusted to them, but to be examples to the flock; more than others they must gird on humility, as Jesus girded on a towel to wash his disciples’ feet (1 Pet. 5:3, 6).

No teaching of Jesus is more easily grasped; none is more basic for Christian living; none is more often forgotten, betrayed, and resisted. Yet it remains the hallmark of Christian leadership; without it, the Lord’s order for his church collapses in shambles. Church government is the rule of Christ’s kingdom of grace and sacrificial love. Without that love, church rule can become the worst kind of oppression, that which destroyed the soul.

– Edmund Clowney, The Church, pp. 206-207.

9Marks Workshop (Portland) Audio Is Up

Had the privilege of attending this workshop last week with some folks from our church. The audio from each of the sessions is now available for download, but only for 60 days (after that you’ll have to contact Hinson Baptist Church to get it). It really was a terrific conference with a lot of content, but also an abundance of opportunities to talk with the speakers and gain much wisdom.

9Marks Workshop Audio.


Am I Critical or Hypercritical?

From Lloyd-Jones’ teachings on Matthew 7:1 (“Judge not.”):

Now there is all the difference in the world between being critical and being hypercritical. True criticism is an excellent thing. Unfortunately there is very little of it. But true criticism of literature, or art, or music, or anything else, is one of the highest exercises of the human mind. Criticism in a true sense is never merely destructive; it is constructive, it is appreciation. There is all the difference in the world between exercising criticism and being hypercritical. The man who is guilty of judging, in the sense in which our Lord uses the term here, is the man who is hypercritical, which means that he delights in criticism for its own sake and enjoys it. I am afraid I must go further and say that he is a man who approaches anything which he is asked to criticize expecting to find faults, indeed, almost hoping to find them.

The simplest way, perhaps, of putting all this is to ask you to read 1 Corinthians 13. Look at the negative of everything positive which Paul says about love. Love ‘hopeth all things’, but this spirit hopes for the worst; it gets a malicious, malign satisfaction in finding faults and blemishes. It is a spirit that is always expecting them, and is almost disappointed if it does not find them; it is always on the lookout for them, and rather delights in them. There is no question about that, the hypercritical spirit is never really happy unless it finds these faults. And, of course, the result of all this is that it tends to fix attention upon matters that are indifferent and to make of them matters of vital importance.


If we ever know the feeling of being rather pleased when we hear something unpleasant about another, that is this wrong spirit. If we are jealous, or envious, and then suddenly hear that the one of whom we are jealous or envious has made a mistake and find there is an immediate sense of pleasure within us, that is it. That is the condition which leads to this spirit of judgment.

– MLJ, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, pp. 432-33.