Resources on Church Government

Both video and audio resources for thinking biblically about ecclesiology and polity.

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Marks-of-a-True-ChurchOne of the enduring decisions that continues to divide Christian denominations is polity – how the church is to be governed. Episcopal, congregational, presbyterian… each of these systems of authority and submission draws from elements of Scriptural truth, and believers have been unable to completely reconcile the various strands across denominations.

One sign of encouragement, however, seems to be recent, small trends towards agreement. Many denominations that are independent/congregational have been putting a greater emphasis on partnering together, and connectional/presbyterian denominations have displayed a willingness to think about the importance of the local congregation.

Examples of this abound in confessional, orthodox American Christianity. Denominations that were created out of the fight against modernism and biblical faithlessness – e.g., the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the Presbyterian Church in America, the United Reformed Churches of North America – have all by in large been careful to regulate centralized power and emphasize local, congregational authority (no doubt partly in reaction to abuses they had witnessed prior). On the other end of the polity spectrum, independent churches are showing an increased interest in working together. Networks such as Acts 29, the Gospel Coalition, Redeemer Network, and Reformed Congregational all act as evidence for this trend. Perhaps there is an increasing desire to find strengths on both ends of the spectrum, and God willing, careful students of Scripture will find ways to biblically and confessionally articulate these truths that lead to greater unity.

But enough pontificating, and on to the actual resources! Continue reading

Reforming the Local Church

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Reforming the Local Church

Reforming your local church is no easy task. Let me begin by stating that the substance of what follows is advice based on personal experience in three pastorates, as well as my interaction with pastors from across the country who have come to embrace Reformation theology and attempted to incorporate that theology into the life of their respective churches.

First Things First
Two preliminary observations are in order. First, it must be understood that there is no guarantee that what has worked in one place will achieve the same results elsewhere. What follows is an overview of what I and others have done and should not be viewed as a sure-fire formula. If anything, I pray that this summary will be used as a guideline for pastors as they think through the comprehensive challenges of reforming a local church.

Second, reforming a church ordinarily begins with the pastor. This is only right because it is through the preaching and teaching of this biblically ordained office that the doctrinal direction is established. If the pastor and elders are not convinced that Reformational theology is the proper theological framework, not much progress will be made. Any effort on the part of the laity (no matter how noble the intention) to teach contrary to the doctrine of the pastor and elders is disruptive to church order. Once laypeople have become convinced of Reformational theology, however, they can be instrumental in bringing these truths to bear in the life of their local church if: (1) they have access to the pastor and elders; (2) they have the confidence and support of the pastor and elders; and (3) they proceed with permission and caution. I will begin with advice for pastors and conclude with a reflection for lay reformers.

The Ground on Which You Stand
Pastors, know your context. There is a huge difference between reforming an existing church that stands within the Reformed tradition but has drifted from its standards, and bringing Reformational theology into a new context where it has never been intentionally or formally held. Continue reading this article by Ken Jones at ModernReformation…→

John Adams and Two Kingdom Prayers

McCullough on Adams worship while traveling in Europe
At Rotterdam, on a Sunday, attending services at an English Church, they listened as the English preacher prayed that “a certain king” might have “health and long life and that his enemies might not prevail against him.” Praying silently on his own, Adams asked that George III “be brought to consideration and repentance and to do justice to his enemies and to all the world.” (p. 244)

VanDrunen on prayer
If the minister prays for the peace and prosperity of America, this Christian from a foreign land should have no difficulty saying “amen,” since Scripture straightforwardly instructs believers to pray in this manner (e.g., see Jer. 29:7; 1 Tim. 2:1-2) and surely no Christian should wish war and poverty upon fellow believers anywhere in the world. Likewise, if the minister prays for a just resolution to an international dispute in which America is involved, this Christian should also be abel to repsond with “amen,” for what Christian would not wish justice to be done everywhere in the world?

But now we might imagine that the minister prays for America’s victory in an international dispute or that the congregation is asked to sing a patriotic American song after the sermon (perhaps this Christian just happens to visit America on Fourth of July weekend). What if her own native country is the one having the dispute with America, and her own livelihood and security are at stake? What if she feels patriotic sentiments for her own country and has no interest in expressing patriotism for America? She would be unable to yield her “amen” to such proceedings, and this would be perfectly understandable – just as understandable as an American worshiping in a Russian church and feeling disinclined to pray for the triumph of Russian foreign policy or to sing patriotic Russian songs. When we are immersed in our own culture and own national interests, it is often difficult to realize how often we attach the church’s identity to a national or ethnic identity, and hence betray the spirituality of the church. The scenarios that I have imagined might cause us to pause and to reflect upon how the church can do better at living as thought there really is no Jew, Greek, Barbarian, or Scythian within its walls. (p. 149-50)

Women’s Fellowship Annual Address 2011 Part 2

Last time, we looked at how Christ’s ministry is the foundation for the Church’s ministry. You can read part 1 here. We continue with how, but considering Christ’s emphasis for the church, how that may shape our own Women’s ministry.

So then what might Christ’s ministry say to our Women’s Fellowship here at Zion? Broadly, it first gives us some emphases to keep in mind in all our ministry:

Women’s Ministry Themes
Attractional vs. Missional
Attractional approaches to ministry are those which basically take the “if we build it, they will come” direction. These churches are typically known for their varied resources often including rock walls, coffee shops, gyms, sports leagues, etc. The idea that drives this approach is that if you can just get the people in the doors, you can keep them there.

We prefer to view things not from an attractional, but a missional perspective. Instead of ministering on the basis of people coming to us, our approach is to take the ministry to the people. Like the Son of God condescending to leave His heavenly home and dwell among those whom He loved, we want to be known for our willingness to take the gospel from within the walls of our building to affect the lives of those we come into contact.

Width vs. Depth
In polling various churches, the vast majority cite numeric growth as their driving evidence of success. Success is measured by quantifiable numbers of weekly attendance, small group attendance, Sunday school attendance, etc. Achievement is determined by the number of people with whom the message is shared. We want our primary purpose of the local church to be making disciples. Not mere attendees or even converts, but disciples – mature followers of Jesus Christ. In the end, the “Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be [Christ’s] disciples” (John 15:8). As we go deeper in Christ, we will pull others along with us.

Marketing vs. Gospel
Some churches emphasize a certain “draw.” Perhaps they are the church with good music, or a great drama team or a really excellent children’s ministry. Like the attractional approach, the hope is to market the church to bring people in. The problem that we see with this approach is that it is generally true that “what you win them with is what you keep them with.” If you win people with lights and smoke, then next year you need more lights and more smoke. You are always forced to better your resources and marketing of those resources to distinguish yourself. The challenge is that the culture is always changing and when you market a specific segment or ministry, then you inevitably teach that your church is not for everyone.

At Zion we hope to win people by the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we can do this, then all we have to do to keep them is continue to preach the gospel — what we should be doing anyway. We hope to accomplish this through challenging our people to have a missional perspective as they live a gospel-centered life. So, the church will experience growth because of mission rather than marketing.

Entitlement vs. Sacrifice
A deep and pervasive sense of entitlement exists in much of the evangelical community. Those who have such an attitude, though they might not articulate it, assume that the church exists merely to
meet one’s own felt needs. Therefore, the church that caters to such an ideology is forced to create thousands of different programs to meet those ever-changing desires.

The Bible teaches not that the church exists to meet your needs, but rather that you exist to meet the needs of others. A heart of humility does not say “meet my needs,” but instead “do not cater to me. I am here to serve.” In the end, the greatest need, felt or not, is for the gospel. If we spend our time meeting peripheral issues, all we have done is dealt with symptoms without addressing the disease. Certainly we recognize the legitimacy of needs and are here to serve those in need, but an attitude of entitlement and true service are at odds.[2] Continue reading

Update: New Reformed Church in Twin Cities

Getting biblically solid, confessionally Reformed churches in the Midwest is not easy, and St. Paul & Minneapolis MN prove no exception. So it is exciting to see that fellow WSCal grad Rev. Ryan Kron is starting a church plant in the Minneapolis and Eden Prairie area. So if you’re in the southwest Metro area, give Emmaus Road Reformed Fellowship a look.

Update: “Fellowship” no more! Emmaus Road Reformed Church is officially up and running online, and you can join them for corporate worship this Sunday at:
Eden Lake Elementary School
12000 Anderson Lakes Parkway
Eden Prairie, MN 55347
(Google maps & directions)

Emmaus Road pastor Rev. Kron says: Continue reading

Women’s Fellowship Annual Address 2011

Women’s Ministry In Christ’s Strength for the Church

Thank you for allowing me to come and share with you this afternoon. As Paul reminds us in Romans 1, we are mutually blessed by each other, and as I’ve been so blessed and strengthened and encouraged by so many of you, I hope that what we look at today from God’s Word will be a blessing you and our Women’s Fellowship as well.

At our last meeting, it was suggested that I speak a bit about how Women’s Fellowship fits into the overall ministry of the church, its role, etc. As I prayerfully reflected on this concept, I thought it might be best for us to first remind ourselves about what Jesus’ ministry, how His ministry instructs the Church’s ministry, and then lastly how our Women’s Fellowship and you as women in our congregation might live and serve for His glory from these truths. When we do that, I think we see that Christ is really our strength and our life for empowering all of our ministry in His Church.

Jesus’ Ministry
Well let’s start then by first reminding ourselves about the distinctives of Jesus’ ministry for what He was sent to do by the Father. You know, I’m working with our 9th grade catechism students, and this year it just happens that all of them are girls, and their mentors are moms and women here at the church. So I’m the only guy in there! And there are times when I think I’m going to have to leave the class; too much estrogen! But one of the things these girls have been struck by time and time again as we’ve worked through the Gospel of Luke is how Jesus’s actions are so completely against what the world expects, but also so contrary to what “good,” religious people expect as well.

For example, Jesus’ puts the priority of His ministry on teaching and preaching rather than on miracles.

Luke 4:42-43 he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

We can understand why the people were so desperate to keep Jesus around; the previous context shows Jesus performing miracles at every turn: healings, restoring health, and casting out demons. We would think that this is the good life, to be rid of the evils of living in a fallen world, but Jesus has his sights set on proclaiming the Good News. Continue reading

Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Ordinances

The Genevan Book of Order

The Form of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments, etc.
Used in the English Congregation at Geneva (1556)

Of Ministers and Their Election
What Things are Chiefly Required in the Pastors and Ministers

First, let the church diligently consider that the minister which is to be chosen[a] be not found culpable of any such faults which St. Paul reprehends in a man of that vocation,[b] but contrariwise endowed with such virtues, that he may be able to undertake his charge, and diligently execute the same. Secondly, that he distribute faithfully the word of God, and minister the sacraments sincerely,[c] ever careful not only to teach his flock publicly, but also privately to admonish them;[d] remembering always, that if any thing perish through his default, the Lord will require it at his hands.[e]

a. Acts 1:21-23; 13:2-3; 14:23 Continue reading

Calvin: Benefits from Justification for Children

Calvin wanted Christ’s little lambs to know the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and he wanted them to know that justification also provided:

  1. Sanctification – as distinguished from, but – inseparable with it

    Master.But can this [imputed] righteousness be separated from good works, so that he who has it may be void of them?

    Scholar. That cannot be. For when by faith we receive Christ as he is offered to us, he not only promises us deliverance from death and reconciliation with God [i.e., justification], but also the gift of the Holy Spirit, by which we are regenerated to newness of life [i.e., sanctification]; these things must necessarily be conjoined so as not to divide Christ from himself.

  2. Assurance of salvation

    M. What advantage accrues to us from this forgiveness [which is, of course, included in justification]? Continue reading

New Reformed Church in Twin Cities

Getting biblically solid, confessionally Reformed churches in the Midwest is not easy, and St. Paul & Minneapolis MN prove no exception. So it is exciting to see that fellow WSC grad Rev. Ryan Kron is starting a church plant in the Minneapolis and Eden Prairie area. So if you’re in the southwest Metro area, give Emmaus Road Reformed Fellowship a look.

Finding Tunes for the Text

Dear Zion,

Last time we saw that what we sing to God in our lyrics and musical text is the most important thing for selecting music in worship services. In fact, what we sing even takes precedence over how we sing, or in other words, the tune, arrangement, and harmony. We can all agree that the music should reflect the mood and substance of our songs, but what other guidelines should churches consider when thinking about the musical tune of the text?
Continue reading