The Church Ought To: Introduction and Summary

 

In the preceding series of posts, I have laid out what I think the church is called to be and do and how a church’s pastors are to lead and serve. To sum it up, I believe a church must be rooted in the good news about Jesus, pursue the community and mission to which the gospel calls us, and depend upon the Holy Spirit completely to produce fruit, praying to that end.

This series lays out my understanding of the church’s purpose and mission. It is drawn from my philosophy of ministry, available here.

 

The Church Ought To… (5)

I finished my last post with, “In the following post, I will share the personal distinctives that impact my ministry as clearly as I can.” Here goes…

I am passionate about and thankful for the God’s Word, the gospel, and the life of community and mission that the gospel calls everyday Christians into. A healthy church begins with the full and consistent proclamation of the good news about Jesus through the teaching and preaching of God’s Word. God blesses the church and it’s members to enter into counter-cultural community and mission, in Christ, and in the resources of the Holy Spirit.

Pastors are called to teach and equip the church toward these ends, and church members are called to grow in living counter-culturally lives of sharing life with one another, and sharing the gospel with the world in word and deed, and honoring Jesus as King. While many of us know we are called to this sort of whole-life discipleship, we need constant reminding; at least I do. So, the church is a to be a place where we are consistently reminded of this calling, and also of the presence and power of the Spirit in us to engage it.

These distinctives impact how I endeavor to pastor and lead in the following four ways. I believe that:

  • The church should constantly emphasize the proclamation of the gospel and teaching of God’s Word. A healthy church will make much of Jesus and treasure God’s Word, sound doctrine.
  • The church should emphasize gospel community. A healthy church is an outpost, or forward operating base, of God’s kingdom where King Jesus already rules in our hearts, lives, and relationships. We are to live our lives in keeping with the way of Jesus; dependent upon, and in step with, the Holy Spirit.
  • The church should emphasize the mission that the gospel calls us to and empowers us for. The blessings God gives to His children in Christ are not self-terminating. Rather, as we are blessed and benefitted by His mercy and grace, that blessing ought to flow through us to bless and benefit others. We are blessed to be a blessing, as God’s people have been going all the way back to Abraham.
  • The church should emphasize and pursue the full resources of the Holy Spirit for life, worship, and ministry. The church is empowered, instructed, and helped in all her work by the Spirit. It is through the Spirit that Jesus keeps His promise to be with us always as we embrace the Great Commission. Whenever God uses us to accomplish His work, it is the Spirit operating through us that brings forth fruit.

This series lays out my understanding of the church’s purpose and mission. It is drawn from my philosophy of ministry, available here.

The Church Ought To… (4)

Pastors* are to humbly, prayerfully, and courageously lead and shepherd people toward these ends. They are called to proclaim the gospel, nurture those God has entrusted to their care, equip them to proclaim the gospel as well, and labor to present everyone mature and complete in Jesus Christ. The pastor’s primary work includes praying, preaching and teaching God’s Word, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, and entrusting the gospel and all that grows from it to faithful men that they may teach others also. In addition, pastors are to be called, seasoned, and biblically qualified men. In sum, men who are above reproach are to serve the church in their praying, gospel proclamation, ministry of the Word, equipping of the saints, and entrusting of the gospel to others. There are additional duties given to pastors in the New Testament. However, gospel proclamation, the ministry of the Word, prayer, administering the sacred ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and equipping believers for the work of ministry are the central tasks of pastoral ministry.**

All of this provokes a critical question: How can pastors most faithfully embrace their high calling? How are they to lead people and churches given the duties and character requirements Scripture prescribes? While most evangelical pastors would agree with the paragraph above, their personal distinctives result in different leadership, culture, and outcomes in the churches they serve. In the following post, I will share the personal distinctives that impact my ministry as clearly as I can.

 

* The biblical plan for leadership in the local church is for a plurality of elders to serve and oversee the church. One or more of those elders may be “worthy of double honor” and function as the first among equals, thus the distinction between lay and vocational elders. The function and role of vocational and non-vocational elders will vary in keeping calling, gifting, availability, and experience. However, the plurality of elders in a church is to lead the church as a team, as one whole. For the sake of simplicity, I have primarily used the terms “pastor” or “pastors” in this document, but the phrases “pastor and elder” or “pastors and elders” could have been used instead.

** Relevant passages of Scripture include Acts 20:18-21, 1 Peter 5:1-4, 2 Timothy 4:1-8, 1 Thessalonians 2:2, Ephesians 4:11-13, Colossians 1:27-29, Acts 6:4, Ephesians 4:11-12, 2 Timothy 2:2, Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9.

This series lays out my understanding of the church’s purpose and mission. It is drawn from my philosophy of ministry, available here.

The Church Ought To… (3)

In the Great Commandment, Great Commission, Upper Room Discourse, and His final words before His ascension Jesus spoke clearly about the purpose and mission of the church, the people who would together bear His name. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love for neighbors as ourselves. We are to make new disciples and deepen existing disciples as we go, baptize new converts, and teach believers to observe all that Jesus has commanded. We are to be his witnesses locally (Jerusalem), in our region (Judea and Samaria), and to the very end of the earth. All of this we are to do with the help and in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:29-31, Matthew 28:18-20, John 14:6, Acts 1:7-8)

Paul spoke clearly about the purpose and mission of the church as well. The leaders of the church are to equip the saints for the work of ministry, so that the body of Christ might be built up, resulting in unity of faith and ever-increasing knowledge of the Son of God. Our goal is consistent growth in faith and knowledge of Christ; growth that can be characterized as “to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Jesus himself is present with us through the Holy Spirit, and He has commissioned us to proclaim the good news about Himself to all, and to ourselves, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. We can do so with confidence and in the secure hope that He is powerfully at work in and through us. (Ephesians 4:11-16, Colossians 1:24-29)

This series lays out my understanding of the church’s purpose and mission. It is drawn from my philosophy of ministry, available here.

The Church Ought To… (2)

The Bible defines the purpose and work of the church. The church exists for the worship of the Triune God to be experienced, furthered, and proclaimed in and through the community of the redeemed, to the ends of the earth.

Three essential characteristics of a healthy local church have been historically recognized among Protestants:

  • The right teaching of the Word of God.
  • The right practice of her sacred ordinances.
  • The right exercise of church discipline.

In addition, the following three tasks are central to her mission:

  • The nurture and discipleship of Christians.
  • The proclamation of the gospel in word and deed to non-Christians.
  • Merciful service to the poor, oppressed, and marginalized.

Therefore, the essential practices of a healthy local church include:

  • Prayer.
  • The proclamation of the good news about Jesus to both the lost and the found.
  • The teaching and study of God’s Word.
  • The making of disciples.
  • The right practice of the sacred ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
  • The proper exercise of church discipline.
  • Service to others, particularly the poor, oppressed, and marginalized.
  • Missional engagement across the street, around the world, and everywhere in between.

This series lays out my understanding of the church’s purpose and mission. It is drawn from my philosophy of ministry, available here.

The Church Ought To… (1)

A local church ought to be and do certain things, all of which can be captured under the following three headings.

  • The good news about Jesus is the center of the life and worship of both the believer and the local church. It is to be continually proclaimed and applied to both the lost and the found, in the power of the Spirit.
  • The local church is a gospel community of mission. The central work of the church is fostering and enjoying whole-life worship, community, and mission, in Christ, unto the glory of God and the joy of all peoples. In addition, a church’s leadership should cultivate a culture where the atmosphere of the gospel and the resources of the Holy Spirit are pursued, valued, and experienced.
  • Prayer is foundational to the work of the church, and prayerful dependence must be interwoven with every aspect of ministry.

This series lays out my understanding of the church’s purpose and mission. It is drawn from my philosophy of ministry, available here.