Archive

Posts Tagged ‘The Church’

A Leaky Container and Its Spoiled Contents

December 30, 2010 5 comments

We don’t want to see the gospel spoiled.  We desire to preserve the truth.  If we hope for either, we must understand the way God designed to keep both intact.  I’m not going to carry nuclear materials in a brown paper sack and not expect bad things to happen.  We can say we care about the gospel and the truth, but we don’t and can’t respect either when we leave them unprotected.

The gospel and truth are popular topics today.  I’m happy about that.  I love the gospel and the truth.  We have seen new alliances form today with the gospel supposedly at their center.  They have set aside other doctrine—ecclesiological, eschatological, pneumatological—in order for what they say is a stronger emphasis on the gospel.  I believe, however, that the greatest threat to the gospel and the truth relates to container in which they are held.  The truth, and therefore the gospel, is to be protected and propagated by the church (1 Tim 3:15) and if so, it must be the church alone responsible for that task.  However, it must be the church, the actual church, the scriptural church, that does the protecting.  We should assume that something different than what Scripture presents as the church could protect the truth.  And there are very distinct views of the church.  One is that the church is universal and visible.  Another is that it is universal and invisible.  And a third is that it is local and visible.  Each of those three is different than the other.

To see all of this, I want to provide a snapshot of what occurred in the history of doctrine.  First, the Bible stands as the sole and final authority for faith and practice.  The writing of the New Testament brings us back to the beginning of Christian belief and practice.  Genuine doctrine springs from the Bible.  Scripture provides the means for judging how men and institutions departed from the truth.  The New Testament is a historical record.  We can be sure of the history there, because it is inspired by God.  We can’t be entirely certain of all the other history, because it truly was written only by men.  From the period beginning shortly after the New Testament was completed in the first century, we can read what we call the “church fathers” or the “patristics.”  Today when we read those writings, we are getting really only an edition of what they wrote, one that is less certain in its veracity than Scripture, because the patristics don’t come with the promise of preservation.  It is possible, even probable, that later these writings were edited to look closer to Roman Catholicism.  Roman Catholic theologians read their version of the church fathers.  Later, the reformers read a probably amended edition of the church fathers and then the interpretations of the theologians who read them.  The  Protestant reformers corrected the soteriology of the church fathers and the Catholic theologians.   They went to the Bible to do that.  However, they didn’t amend the ecclesiology or the eschatology or even much of the hermeneutics of the church fathers and the theologians of Roman Catholicism.

What is clear from reading the writings preserved by Roman Catholicism, called the church fathers or the patristics, is that many of them mixed Greek philosophy with Scripture in their doctrine.  By the time we get to Augustine in the 5th century, we have someone who combined the ideas of Plato with Christianity.  Augustine originated the invisible church concept in the Donatist controversy.  He was influenced by the Platonist belief that true reality was in the invisible, and if the visible represents the invisible, it always does so partially and imperfectly.  The allegorical hermeneutic of Origen, borrowed by Roman Catholicism, also influenced the reformers in their ecclesiology, eschatology, and system of interpretation.

The purpose of this post is not to expose the passages necessary to understand what God’s Word says the church is.  It is to show that the wrong view of the church will affect the preservation of the gospel and the truth.  Someone may say that he shows his great love for the gospel by only dividing over the gospel or what some call “gospel-related truths.”  However, I contend that if he does not hold the right view of the church, he contributes to the destruction of the gospel.  The gospel can’t be preserved in a leaky container or its contents will be spoiled.

The same people most responsible for spoiling the gospel in history, Roman Catholics, are also most responsible for corrupting scriptural ecclesiology.  The Catholics invented the universal church and then the invisible church.  The Protestant Reformers did not amend that false teaching.  Only churches who remained separate from Catholicism kept a scriptural ecclesiology, the belief in an only local and visible church.  Through history they have been known by different names, but today they are called Baptist.

Scripture teaches an only local and visible church.  Only that church, the only scriptural one, can keep the truth.  The Lord Jesus Christ and His inspired New Testament give only a local and visible church, the only true church, the necessary means to keep the truth and therefore the gospel.  Churches keep the truth through discipline, through the offices of the pastor and deacons, through the practice of separation, and through the purity of the ordinance of the Lord’s Table.  A universal and invisible church is a leak container that will not preserve the truth.  It treats the truth like an open pick-up truck treats an pile of tomatoes.  If a few of the tomatoes fly or drop out, it won’t really matter as long as many or most get to their intended destination.  Something beyond or in addition to a true church does not have the means necessary to keep the truth.   For sure non-church institutions, like colleges or mission boards or publishers, can preserve the truth.  The very existence of these parachurch organizations threaten the truth and the gospel.  Cobbling together a coalition big enough to support the extra-scriptural institution requires laxity of doctrine.

No kind of viable, practical unity around common doctrine is possible and is not even available to all professing believers from all the various evangelical denominations.  To attain some faux unity, doctrines and truths will be devalued and dropped by the wayside.  Without the means possessed by true churches to keep the truth, doctrines will leak and leak until very little Scripture is believed and practiced.  I believe the wrong view of the church has done more damage to the truth and the gospel than any other doctrine.  Great damage will continue to be done to the truth and the gospel until there is a return to a biblical ecclesiology in Christianity.

Church-wide Revival

May 11, 2009 9 comments

Here are some questions that I have thought about for a long time.  These are related to the present topic and are mostly asked to help get us to be thinking about revival in more that just one way.  My premise is that the question of revival could be applied to churches corporately.  If that is true, the following questions come to mind.

  1. How does a church “get right with God”?
  2. How does a church “please God”?
  3. How does a church “grow in grace”?
  4. How does a church start a “new beginning of obedience”?

Wouldn’t it be more than just individual actions?

A Model for Modern Missions (part two)

January 21, 2008 1 comment

This philosophy of missions was developed by a friend of mine who is a missionary out of our church to Zambia, Africa.  I went to undergraduate and master’s classes with Dave Olson.  He then worked at our church; he pastored a small church in Nebraska; and he is now ministering in Kabwe, Zambia.  This is part two. Part one is here.

3.  Paul was Recommended

“And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.”  Acts 14:26Â

“And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.” Acts 15:40Â

What does it mean to be recommended?  The two verses teach two separate ideas about being recommended.  First, Paul was recommended to God, meaning to deliver to one something to keep, use, take care of, manage.  The church of Antioch realized that they had to commit Paul to God’s charge.  A local church does this as they regularly pray for their missionaries.  There must be a pleading with God that He will take care of and use each missionary.

Second, there is the idea of being recommended to others.  It is important for other churches to know that a missionary is equipped and ready.  No other church should support a missionary if that missionary is not recommended and in good standing with his sending church.  In Acts 15:40 it says, “being recommended by the brethren.”  This recommendation by the brethren stresses the importance for a missionary to have the support of his local church.

Other churches must look at the recommendation of the sending church before it considers the recommendation of a mission board.  Unfortunately, this is not the case among the majority of independent Baptists today.  The local church knows the missionary better than a board does.  Boards should not even take missionaries who have problems with their local church.  This undermines the local church, which clearly undermines the teachings of the New Testament.  Many boards supercede the authority of the local church in this area.  It is amazing that some boards are so quick to take a church’s recommendation and yet so slow to take a church’s criticism of a missionary.  Many boards adopt the missionary into their “church” family, and they speak for and take the place of the sending church.  Because of this wrong relationship, boards often take the side of the missionary instead of his sending church.  We must always remember that a truly Biblical recommendation is “by the brethren” of his local church.

4.  Paul Reaped

Paul knew firsthand that the law of sowing and reaping never fails.  Whenever there is sowing, there should be some reaping.  How much reaping is God’s business-“God… giveth the increase.“  It is important to notice that there is very little emphasis on or information about the number of converts in Paul’s ministry.  The emphasis was not on numbers, but on the power of God.  Paul always gave glory to the Lord for any results.Â

5.  Paul Returned

“And when they had preached the word…they went…to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled.” Acts 14:25-26

Paul returned to his sending church after much missionary activity.  We call this furlough.  The issue was not whether or not they should return home.  Not returning to the sending church is not right.  Let us consider some facts concerning the missionaries’ return to their local church.

Where they Returned

Paul and Barnabas returned to their own church, “from whence they had been recommended” (Acts 14:26, 18:22-23).  When a missionary comes home on furlough, he should spend most of his time at his sending church.  Read more…

Back to the Future of Getting to the Mission Field

January 16, 2008 25 comments

I want to start with disclaimers to derail what I would assume would occur with this post.  What makes this a difficult subject is that people are already invested in the present system and if changed could undermine support and livelihood.  I’m not saying that missionaries don’t have Biblical convictions about the way they did and are doing things regarding getting to the field.  They did and do.  I’m sure many missionaries would resent the idea that they are defending the way they’ve practiced based on continued flow of support money.  So let’s get it out of the way that I believe that you missionaries have reasoned this out Scripturally and didn’t get into it thinking that you went the path of tradition.

My goal really isn’t to affect present missionary support, but to think about how missionaries will get to the field in the future.  I like that churches support missionaries with their money.  Our church does and will support more.  However, this is not the direction that I’m primarily heading with our young people, that is, checks sent from churches.  I don’t want them planning on support from other churches.   Others might say that what I need to understand is that what I’m proposing just won’t work.  I’d like you to consider with me what is the Scriptural approach.

The title says “back to the future” because the model “back” in the first century as found in Scripture could be the “future” of getting to the mission field.  Since Scripture is sufficient, I don’t believe we are to look into the Bible to justify something that we have done or do, but to find the very patterns there and make those our own.  Where we haven’t done that, I don’t assume there were evil intentions.  I figure they were mainly pragmatic or what some people would call “practical” reasons.  “And if it’s practical, well, it must be Scriptural, because God is practical, isn’t He?”  This logic defies the sole authority of the Bible, but it is commonly used.  God is more practical than us, especially because He knows everything, including the future.  He knows the problems that our swerves from Scripture can cause over several generations.  We may think we’re ‘OK’ because the situation looks good for 5, 10, 50, or 200 years.  The just shall live by faith, even in missions support.

THE TRADITIONAL ROUTE

The norm for getting to the field has been deputation, one hundred per cent support, leave to the field, stay three years, come back for one year of furlough (reporting and gaining new support), go back for three more years, and so on.  Missionaries are most often supported by numerous churches, anywhere from fifteen to one hundred churches at from ten dollars to one thousand dollars a month.  Missionaries will be on deputation usually from six months to three years, sometimes traveling the entire country to get support.  I don’t know how many churches on average must be visited to get one supporting church.  Missionaries tell me that they are often in churches of which they definitely wouldn’t be a member, but “that’s the way it goes” because “that’s just the way it is, I guess.”

Some of the missionaries would rather not have a few to many of their supporting churches.  Some of the supporting churches would rather not have certain  of their missionaries.  To get the support, usually missionaries take a pre-trip to the field to get some basic knowledge, experience, and some pictures for what is now the DVD (multi-media) and was once the slide show.  They have the requisite missionary card and maybe the brochure.  They market themselves.  Churches might expect it.  Of course, there are the incessant calls to pastors or at least their secretaries or answering machines that are par for the course.  The missionary must jump through the required hoops and this process often feels like a dog and pony show beneath the dignity of a human being.

SOME CONCERNS WITH THE TRADITIONAL ROUTE

The United States has sent out the bulk of the missionaries for the last 100 years because of Scriptural influences, tied into the financial status of the nation.  The amount of capital available in the U.S. has been greater than other countries.  The financial support flows from American churches to American missionaries in foreign lands.

But what if the American finances dry up?  They could.  We could easily reach the point where our economy will not sustain the rampant sinfulness.  And then what?  Do missionaries come home?  Do we stop sending new ones?  It seems that our missions support philosophy is tied into the success of the U. S. economy.  Can third world churches send out missionaries using our same model?  Why not?  Shouldn’t the right philosophy be able to be practiced everywhere?

Have you noticed that as money has gotten so involved in missions that the mission board has taken on a greater status?  We have all new categories of Christian “servants” with faux authority—the director, the chairman, the field representative, the field secretary, the home office manager, etc.—somewhat mirroring a government bureaucracy, siphoning off money that could go directly to the missionaries.  None of these roles even faintly appear in Scripture, and yet are now given a lofty status among Christian leaders.  I’m sure many of the men and women in these non-scriptural positions possess sincere motives and purpose.  Could something not found in the Bible be necessary to accomplish God’s work or are we merely propping up these organizations for their continued existence?

WHAT IS THE NEW TESTAMENT PATTERN?

The New Testament shows a model of tent-making, that is, the missionary laboring to support himself financially.  In Luke 10, we see Jesus send the seventy out without support to evangelize regions of Palestine.  He didn’t show support to be a necessity.  I understand that we find that Paul believed that it was his right to receive financial remuneration (1 Corinthians 9:14).  Paul got support from churches (Philippians 4:10, 15-18; 2 Corinthians 11:8, 9).  However, we have no record that he was sent from Antioch with promise of pay.   Scripture does not show that he had ongoing support from churches, but that it was hit and miss.  His regular support came from his own labor (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8).   His craft was making tents (Acts 18:3).   The pattern he took was to work the secular job of making and selling tents (perhaps repairing too) a part of the day and then carry on his preaching and teaching the other part in accomplishing his work.  He was likely taught his skill by his father as part of the child training that Jewish families practiced in order to pass on at least one means from which the son could earn a living.   He did the tent-making so that he would not be “chargeable” to those he served.  He didn’t want any strings attached to what he said and did.

WHAT HAPPENED TO TENT-MAKING?

At some point, Christian leaders started discouraing tent-making.  Some say it isn’t trusting the Lord.  Some have applied the term, somewhat derogatory, bivocational.  The man who must work in addition to his service is sometimes seen as a failure compared to the full-time man.  We must understand that Paul himself, the author of nearly half the New Testament and organizer of many churches, worked a job while he did his ministry.  Not only can it be done, but it is the way Paul did his missions work.

Instead of tentmaking, men are encouraged to go out looking for support.   Men find themselves making a presentation in a church that they don’t even want to be in.  They often find themselves attempting to minimize their doctrine so as not to be an offense, so that they can get their support.  By means of mutual support of one missionary, many churches are brought into cooperation that doctrinally and practically would choose not to be otherwise.  The deputation trail is an unrealistic trek.  There’s nothing like it in Scripture.  It is difficult on families.  Could they learn character?  Could they see examples of churches from which to learn?  It can be a positive experience to contented people who depend on God for strength and discernment.  It isn’t a way that Scripture lays out anywhere as a means of Christian growth.  For months, a family is not faithful to the assemblies of its own church or under the preaching of its own pastor or involved in the work of its own church.  And this is supposed to be the model of preparation for a field, to be out of the direct influence of its own church a few years right before the missionary takes off permanently.  And when he does come back, he’s back on the road again, away from his own church.  These are just some of the negatives of this system.

HOW COULD THIS CHANGE?

For the tentmaking to be the model, our young people will need means to earn a living to support themselves and their families.  To do so, they will need to train to make money.  We aren’t well equipped to do that in churches.   Churches often encourage members against secular work.  Based on stands of personal separation, many church parents don’t want their children to interact with the world in a pagan work environment.   As soon as children finish their Christian school or home schooling, they go off to Christian college, which also doesn’t get a young person ready to earn a living in the real world.  “Old Testament Survey” on the resume doesn’t often impress a secular employer.  The employer wants someone who knows how to make him money.

Young people leave Christian colleges and support from a church is about the only way to make it.  Parents, young people, and churches spend thousands of dollars for a college education, only to have a young person return that they have to support financially.  If not, since they have no marketable skill, they are the college graduates and even masters graduates who are flipping burgers at the local fast-food joint, which enables them to barely scrape by.  They might need two jobs to pay the rent in certain housing markets.  And how much time does that leave them to work in a church?  Very little.   I won’t go any further except to say we need to give our young people in some fashion the means to make a living that will allow time to give to ministry afterwards.  These are the kind of people with the greater potential as tent-makers to follow the model of the Apostle Paul.

This is a big subject.  I’ve barely brushed the surface, but it is something that I wanted us to think and talk about.  I welcome your comments.

A Model for Modern Missions (part one)

January 14, 2008 4 comments

This philosophy of missions was developed by a friend of mine who is a missionary out of our church to Zambia, Africa.  I went to undergraduate and master’s classes with Dave Olson.  He then worked at our church; he pastored a small church in Nebraska; and he is now ministering in Kabwe, Zambia.  This is part one.

The Bible is the basis of our faith and practice.  If we want to know what we should believe about any given topic, we should consult the Bible.  The subject of missions is no different.  Too many times we accept how churches do things as the Bible way of doing things.  We must remember that Bible policy should always outweigh church polity.

The term philosophy should not intimidate anyone.  Your philosophy is what you believe, and you will surely live what you believe.  If you are uncertain about what you believe, you will be uncertain about how to live.  If you do not know what you believe about missions, you will not know how to be involved in missions properly.  We need to get a Bible view of missions, not our own view or someone else’s view.  If our philosophy of missions is wrong, we should not be afraid to change it.

In the Bible we discover many wonderful truths about the subject of missions.  God has given us some great examples to follow in His Word.  Paul was not necessarily the first missionary, but he was an effective one.  Because there is much information on the life and ministry of Paul, he and his co-laborers provide an excellent model for modern missions.  It is very important to notice that Paul’ s activities are centered on the local church.  We will consider several relationships of Paul with the local church. Read more…

Missions Is Not Church Planting

January 10, 2008 32 comments

You’ve probably read about the great basketball coach who wanted his players to learn the fundamentals, so he started the first practice with “this is a basketball.”  He wanted his team to learn how to play and so he didn’t take for granted anything that anyone needed to know.   We will miss the fundamentals of missions if we skip over the appropriate instruction from Scripture, just because we think we know that already.   The Bible is our sole authority, so it’s also where we find out about missions, not from Baptist or fundamentalist traditions.  The teaching of Jesus in the Gospels changed my thinking about what my life was about.  Are you willing to let it do the same to you?

Men shouldn’t start out thinking that missions is church planting because it isn’t what we see in Scripture.   God made the Bible sufficient for every good work, so we should allow God’s Word to regulate what and how we do what we do.  A lot of perversion in “missions” comes because of having church planting the initial thought of what a missionary does.  Jesus started the church, but that wasn’t the first thing that He did.  Before He went back to heaven, He sent men to do what He did.  So we ought to be clear about what Jesus did.  When we don’t follow His example, we can’t succeed at the mission that He gave us.

WHAT DID JESUS DO? Read more…

A Local Church Missions Philosophy

January 8, 2008 7 comments

About six years ago, and as a new pastor, I sat down and thought through what a Biblical philosophy of missions should look like.  To be honest, within the first few weeks as pastor our phone rang off its hook with future missionaries seeking support.  I knew that we could not possibly support them all, even at one dollar per month.  So, I set out to establish what our philosophy of missions would be.  Above all else, we wanted our philosophy to reflect the New Testament approach to Christian Missions.Â

Since writing this philosophy, we have sent it to each missionary we currently support, and we send it to every missionary who approaches us for support.  Our desire in this is to communicate our goals and standards, and to give a Scriptural basis for taking on new missionaries for support.  I share it with you now in order to lay some ground work for what we feel is a Biblical starting point for missions.  I have not added to or taken away from anything in this published philosophy over the past few years, nor did I change anything for this post.  Perhaps it is time it were edited.  Perhaps not.  Feel free to make any comments as you wish.

The Missions Philosophy of Berean Baptist Church

as established by Pastor Dave Mallinak.

Christian historians have noticed that in the beginning days of our country, Christian ministries grew very gradually, and the quality of society and its civil government mirrored that growth. Since those early years in our nation’s history, however, this pattern has changed. We are now experiencing a literal explosion in “Christian ministry,” yet the quality of our society and civil government not only does not reflect this growth, but has actually moved in the opposite direction. What has happened?

Even to the casual observer, the Christian ministries of today are woefully inadequate at addressing even the simplest problems of our society. Why? Is sin so much greater than God? Is God unable to empower His people for His work any more? Or has the salt lost its savor? Are we really forced to follow along behind the world, kicking, screaming, condemning, and then imitating all their methods? The reason so many ministries are powerless against the world is because they are not truly against the world. “He that is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30), and no ministry is with Christ if their methods contradict God’s Word. For too long, Christians have made decisions based on tradition and convenience rather than a thorough examination of the Word of God. Unfortunately, missions, and mission boards in particular, have been guilty. Many a good missionary has yoked himself to a para-church mission board, only to find that oxen do not plough very well with a donkey strapped to their side. They may get the job done, but the team is sure hard to handle.

Read more…