Just finished reading The Compelling Community by Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop (a very helpful book, by the way), and in the final chapter the authors provide a number of questions meant to help assess the character of your church that I thought were well chosen:
- Is your congregation clear on the gospel? If you were to ask random members of your congregation what the good news of the cross is, how would they answer your question? There’s no reason eave a congregation of new believers couldn’t be able to do this well. But in many of our churches, we’re not there.
- Is your congregation telling others the gospel? Church planting is the natural result of evangelism, and it won’t work well without it.
- Do your church members teach God’s Word to each other? Is yours a church culture where it’s normal to encourage each other with Scripture?
- Does your congregation take their responsibility seriously to guard each other from sin? Are those conversations both honest and grace-exalting?
- Is most of the pastoring in your church done by the congregation? Is it unusual for a pastoral problem to come to your attention where ordinary members of the congregation are not already at work?
- Do you already see a breadth and depth of relationships that cannot be explained by natural bonds alone? Have these types of relationships come to characterize your congregation?
- Does your congregation trust its leadership? Or is it still typical that disunity erupts when leaders make a challenging decision?
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.
Here’s a good roadmap for a church to follow:
- BIBLE: The word of God does the work of God through the Spirit of God in the people of God;
- LOCAL CHURCH: The local church is the primary place where the Kingdom of Heaven impacts the kingdoms of this world;
- EXPOSITORY PREACHING: Consecutive expository preaching by the pastor-teacher is the best normal diet of the local church;
- MEETINGS: The meetings of the local church are for both edification and evangelism (with no sharp distinction between these)
- MINISTERS: The ministers of the local church are all its members;
- FOCUS: The local church should focus on doing a few things really well;
- SACRIFICE: The local church exits for the sake of others;
- 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.
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).
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.
Every Christian community must realize that not only to the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of fellowship.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 94.
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.