Church Government

Pastor Jay continues his “Vital Signs of a Health Church” series this week with a message titled “Church Government,” from Hebrews 13:17.

Hebrews 13:17 (ESV)

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

A healthy church has an effective church government.

  • The congregation has a part in church government.
    • Congregations choose their leaders.
    • Congregations fire their leaders.
    • Congregations turn from false leaders.
    • Congregations edify their leaders.
    • Congregations follow their leaders.
  • The congregation needs qualified, effective leaders.
    • Elders lead.
    • Elders teach.
    • Elders protect the flock.
    • Elders serve.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Have you ever been the leader of a group? How did you like it?
  • What does it mean to be a leader? What does that word mean to you?
  • Do you know any leaders of the church?
  • How can you be a true leader this week at home?

Growth

Pastor Jay continues his “Vital Signs of a Health Church” series this week with a message titled “Growth,” from Colossians 2:6-7.

Colossians 2:6-7 (ESV)

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

A healthy church pursues growth.

  • The healthy church pursues growth downward.
  • The healthy church pursues growth upward.
  • The healthy church pursues growth skillfully.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What did Pastor Jay say our church tree represents?
  • How does a tree grow downward?  How does growing downward help the tree?
  • What happens when a tree grows upward?
  • What kind of fruit does God want to see in our lives?

Church Discipline

Pastor Jay continues his “Vital Signs of a Health Church” series this week with a message titled “Church Discipline,” from 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (ESV)

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

The healthy church practices church discipline.

  • Because God calls us to this in scripture.
  • Serious harm to a brother.
  • Serious unrepentant sin.
  • Serious sin on the part of an elder.
  • Serious because of heresy.
  • Because we have restorative love for a brother.
  • Because we have protective love for the church.
  • Because we have jealous love for the gospel and the glory of God.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What’s one thing you’ve been punished for doing more than once?
  • What is the worst part of being punished?
  • Why do you think there should be consequences to our actions?
  • How can you avoid discipline this week?

There Was a Lot of Wasted Effort

Sometimes when I reflect on my life, I see odd streams of thought coming together in interesting juxtapositions. For instance, lately I’ve been thinking both about the so-called “purpose-driven life” and also the biblical principle of “the vanity of life under the sun.” Are those two things compatible?

There is a vanity to our planning. An old Yiddish saying goes, “man plans, and God laughs.” That’s not far from the words and principles of the scripture. Consider the following:

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 ESV)

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13–16 ESV)

Our lives contain a great many missteps, failed plans, and wasted efforts. If patience is a problem for me, (and it tends to be), then life in general is going to prove pretty frustrating. Dare I say? It is the nature of the beast. With the fall, not only death but also futility was introduced into the created order. Even our plans and our mental endeavors are subject to futility.

What this teaches me is that in all my planning I have to leave room for that pesky futility problem. Nothing is sure except the Word of God.  Nowhere am I guaranteed success. His plans will be perfectly fulfilled—mine, not so much. I may build a house just to see it burn to the ground. I may invest in a retirement fund, only to see stocks plummet. I may discipline my brain to take in vast knowledge (however unlikely that scenario appears) only to contract Alzheimer’s and forget the names of the people closest to me.

As a bit of humor, I have said to my family that I want this epitaph on my tombstone: “There was a lot of wasted effort.” Some people may live charmed lives with no wasted effort or repeated steps, but not I. I’m not that good.  At my age, I think I’m starting to understand that.

Here’s the great truth. While on the one hand, so much is subject to futility; there is this truth to balance it. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV) Though I may make a lot of mistakes and have to undo much of my work, if that work was offered to God, it was not in vain. God sees our hearts. He sees faithfulness, not finesse; He sees intents and motives, not humanly measured success.  Herein is one of the great advantages for the believer. We get to redeem our time and have it count for eternity. That gives me comfort.

Church Membership

Pastor Jay continues his “Vital Signs of a Health Church” series this week with a message titled “Church Membership,” from 2 Timothy 2:15-19.

2 Timothy 2:15-19 (ESV)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

A healthy church calls people into biblical membership.

  • Because the healthy church has a biblical understanding of what the church is.
  • The church is the community of all true believers for all time.
  • The church is visible and invisible.
  • The church is universal and local.
  • Because the healthy church understands the benefits of the local church.
  • The local church is the engine of discipleship.
  • The local church is the engine of shepherding.
  • The local church is the engine of evangelism.
  • The local church is the engine of worship.
  • Because membership is biblically warranted.
  • Membership is implied by the whole covenant structure of the Bible.
  • Membership is implied by the call to church discipline.
  • Membership is implied by the rolls that were kept.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Describe the perfect party. What friends would you invite?
  • Have you ever thought of Sunday morning church as a “party” to worship Jesus?
  • Why is it a good idea to make church important?