The Ekklesia

EKKLESIA

The Infrastructure of the Church Part 2

As we continue in the sermon series CHURCH 101, let’s explore the second  infrastructure of the Church of God – THE MEMBERS

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

The MEMBER’S POSITION

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus…”

The church, Christian believers, is the assembly of God’s people. The word church (Ekklesia) in secular Greek meant an “assembly duly summoned.” Paul changed the term to represent the church. We are called out of the sinful world by the Holy Spirit to be a part of the body of Christ. Ninety percent of the time, “church” refers to the local congregation, which speaks to the importance of a local community. One cannot grow into the image of Christ outside a local church.

Believers are “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” “Sanctified” is a perfect participle (Patterson 21). The Greek perfect tense portrays a past act, the consequences of which continue on. This is our position in Christ. We are sanctified in Christ. This is a past act that is to be lived out daily. Those who have been sanctified look like, act like, and live like it!

“As Christians one of the strongest rebukes we can have when we sin is to be reminded of who our Father is. And reminding ourselves of whose we are should be one of our strongest deterrents to sin. Remembering our position can compel us to improve our practice.” (MacArthur 301-303)

 

The MEMBER’S PRACTICE

“called to be saints” (verse 2)

Our practice is based upon our position. Believers are to live out who we ARE in Christ, not how or whom we are trying to be. We are saints or holy ones – God’s called out distinctive people. We are to discipline our bodies to live out who we are in Christ—saints and holy ones.

“Christian discipleship involves striving to become that which in terms of status God has already given. Practical holiness entails being transformed in Christ-likeness and goodness day by day” (Thiselton 31)

We are God’s called out and set apart saints by and for Him. Therefore, we are to reflect God’s character in our daily lives. Not to be saved or to please God. We do so because we are saved and long to live and look like whose we are!

“A little boy was accustomed to attending a church which had beautiful stained-glass windows. He saw that the windows contained pictures: “St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, St. Paul,” and others. One day he was asked, “What is a saint?” He replied, “A saint is a person the light shines through.” (Barnhouse 203)

“Does God’s light shine through you? Christ commands, ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven'” (ibid 203).

The MEMBER’S PARTNERSHIP

“…with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours…” (verse 2)
The Corinthians had the habit of thinking they were an island all to themselves. They could live and set their rules however they wanted. In truth, no church is isolated from other Christian communities. Community tradition, doctrine, and practice are all very important. Paul wanted them to know they were a part of the entire body of Christ.

Notice: “Call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (verse 2). This is the earliest confession of faith—Jesus is Lord. Lord was OT reference to YHWH. Here Paul declares Jesus the same as Father God. There are those who do not believe in the Trinity. However, this verse and many others prove a great problem to their beliefs. Regardless of some non-essential differences, we are in a partnership with all true believers.

We must realize our POSITION and PRACTICE have an effect on the universal church of Christ!

The MEMBER’S PRIZE

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 3).

The gift of God’s grace.
Grace always precedes peace. Grace is God’s free, unmerited, sovereign gift. It is God’s “undeserved, gracious acts whereby He has chosen to provide existence, with all its benefits, and access to God, with all its blessings to those who are the objects of His purpose”—His sanctified saints! (Patterson 23)

The gift of peace
Our definition of peace is no problems, worries, sickness, or struggles. Peace is not a harmonious state or relegated to heaven (Patterson 23). “Peace is the confidence of God’s favor, even in the midst of conflict” (Ibid 23). It is based upon a harmonious state with God. Not a subjective feeling of inner tranquility (Thiselton 33). This peace can only come from Christ and is only given to believers (MacArthur 313).

The gift of God Himself
Grace and peace are the outflow of God’s presences. Paul wants the Corinthians to know God is the ultimate gift. They were too caught up in spiritual gifts. They were bragging about tongues and teaching. They thought they were special because of their gifts. Gifts, by the way, were given freely, not earned because someone is a special Christian. Believers should be focusing on the presence of God in their lives. He has given Himself to us bountifully. “Grace is [God’s] favor [upon believers], and peace is one of its fruits” (MacArthur 308).

Paul begins the letter to the Corinthians by setting out the infrastructure of the church of God. There are MINISTERS and MEMBERS. Each have their specific part to play. Ephesians 4 says that ministers are to equip the members for the work of ministry. That is exactly why Paul was writing to the Corinthians. They were focusing on how important they were as individuals. Paul reminded them of the importance of the body of Christ. It is God’s church and His called-out saints!

Points to Ponder

    • We are to follow God’s plans for His Church.
    • Ministers are to lead, but they are not the heart of the church.
    • Members are to follow and serve, but they are one body.
    • Regardless of whether gifts are seen by all or behind the scenes, all are gifts.
    • No one gets to brag because of their gifts.
    • We ARE sanctified—past act of God.
    • We are to live out who we already are in Christ.
    • God is our prize!
    • Our focus and prayers for other things must be secondary to desiring Him.

Resources:
Barnhouse, Donald Grey. Timeless Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004.
MacArthur, John. 1 Corinthians. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1984.
Patterson, Paige. An Exposition of First Corinthians: The Troubled Triumphant Church 2nd ed. Fort Worth: Seminary Hill Press, 2011.
Thiselton, Anthony. First Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006.
Church 101 Listen Now

The Infrastructure of the Church

Church 101

The Infrastructure of the Church

As we begin our study of Church 101, the first basic truth we will see is found in 1 Corinthians 1:1-3.

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:1-3

As we take a closer look at these three verses we are going to see the infrastructure of The Church of God.

First, The Church of God is made up of THE MESSENGER

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother”. (1 Corinthians 1:1)

The reason behind Paul’s opening in verse one is because those in Corinth were questioning his authority. The initial address of sectarianism is seen later in chapter one. Paul’s Position is stated clearly: He is an apostle. He was called by the will of God.

This speaks to the divine origin of HIS POSITION

God chose Paul. This was not a task he volunteered for. He was an apostle sent by God. The word Apostle (apostolos) means “sent from”. In the Greek, the one sent isn’t the main focus, rather the focus is upon the sender and the reason for the sending. So, God is the focus! God is responsible for Paul’s ministry as well as the message he is writing to the Corinthians (and to us). John MacArthur clarifies the role of the one sent:

When the Jewish supreme court, the Sanhedrin, was asked to arbitrate a serious dispute or to give an interpretation regarding Jewish law or tradition, they would send their decision by an apostolos to the parties involved, who were often represented through a synagogue. As far as the message was concerned, the apostolos possessed the full authority of the Sanhedrin. He did not speak for himself, but for the Sanhedrin. Yet he was more than a messenger. He was an emissary, an envoy, an ambassador. Paul was God’s envoy, God’s ambassador (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 6:20), God’s apostolos. (MacArthur 222-26)

Paul wanted them to know he was writing God’s message and that he is simply an emissary delivering the Lord’s message.

The next thing we learn about The Messenger is: HIS PERSON

“and Sosthenes our brother”
Though an apostle, he was still equal to all believers. All Christians are saints. The Corinthians had those who thought they were super-saints. Either prominence, prosperity, or power led them to feel superior. Paul associates himself with the church in Corinth using the term “Our brother”. The New Testament consistently presents the theme of family: We are One through the blood of Christ Jesus!

How is this applicable to the church today? Ministers are called by God. Trust me, no one chooses to be a minister. All are chosen and called by God to a specific task. Ministers are to proclaim the eternal, timeless message of God. We are ambassadors for God. We are delivering His message.

Even though ministers have different responsibilities they are still equal to the saints. All believers are a part of the body of Christ, so none are more important than the others. Ministers lead the sheep, but only by following Christ’s leadership. They are to be treated as part of the family. When a group or person tries to run the church it is never a good thing. When a pastor sees himself as a dictator it is never a good thing. It is like a single cancer cell that will eventually destroy the whole body. The church is one body united in Christ.

The first infrastructure of the church of God is GOD’S MINISTER.

In tomorrow’s post we will examine the Second Part of the Infrastructure of the Church of God.

Resource: MacArthur, John. 1 Corinthians. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1984.

The Church of God is the first in the Sermon Series Church 101: A Study of 1 Corinthians at Living Oaks Baptist Church in Tulsa, OK.

Join us at 10:45 AM each Sunday for contemporary music and worship as we continue the series Church 101.

Living Oaks Baptist Church
8855 E 91st St
Tulsa, OK 74133
www.lobc.net
918-250-0210

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A How To Manual for the Christian Church

The Church of God

Church 101 A Study in 1 Corinthians
There was a mother who had watched her son through the week begin to drain in energy. And by the end of the week he had simply lost the desire to get up and get with the day. She heard the alarm go off through the door. She listened as nine minutes passed and the alarm went off again. Apparently he just kept punching the little snooze button on top of the alarm. Finally, after three or four extra rings, she decided to take charge so she walked in and said, “Son, it’s time to get up. You’ve got to get up.” He peeked out from under the covers and said, “Can you give me three good reasons I have to get up?” She said, “Well, yes. First of all, it’s Sunday, and you need to get dressed for church. Second, you’re forty-three years old and you know better than to lie there. Third, you’re the pastor of the church and they expect you to be there!” (Swindoll 419)

I imagine this is how Paul might have felt when he heard all that was happening in the church of Corinth. And yet in spite of all they were doing wrong, Paul begins his letter with encouragement, joy, and thanksgiving. His letter dealing with the problems in the church of Corinthians is more like a how-to-do-church book. In fact, because of this I have entitled our study of 1 Corinthians as Church 101. In this wonderful book we will learn a great many lessons on how to or even how not to do church.

Some of the major issues we’ll deal with are:

  1. Divisiveness
  2. Church Discipline
  3. Litigious spirit
  4. Privileges and limitations of Christian Liberty
  5. Principles of Rhetoric
  6. Domestic Issues
  7. Women’s Roles and Status—home, church, society
  8. Behavior at the Lord’s Table
  9. Spiritual Gifts
  10. The Resurrection

As we study through the book, we’ll see the problems Paul addresses were not just relevant to 1st century Corinth, but are still pertinent for the church in 21st century. In tomorrow’s post we will explore the first three verses in Chapter One and examine the Infrastructure of the Church of God.

Resources:Swindoll, Charles R. Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotes. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998.

The Church of God is the first in the Sermon Series Church 101: A Study of 1 Corinthians at Living Oaks Baptist Church in Tulsa, OK.

Join us at 10:45 AM each Sunday for contemporary music and worship as we continue the series Church 101.

Living Oaks Baptist Church
8855 E 91st St
Tulsa, OK 74133
www.lobc.net
918-250-0210

Saving a seat for you

 

The Joy of Family

Church FamilyBy Bob Pittenger

Wherever you go as a disciple of Jesus you will find family. Regardless of whether life leads you to a new city, state, or country you will always find a Christian family waiting for you at the nearest Bible believing church.

Yesterday, we closed out our study of Philippians with the sermon “The Joy of Family.” In the sermon we looked at several of the reason why Paul’s Christian family gave him such great joy. Paul found those who served with him indispensable because they were a vital part of his Christian family.

To listen to the sermon and learn more about how you can experience the joy of family please follow this link: The Joy of Family.

Feed My Sheep

heart of a servant leaderEarly in ministry I heard a well-respected pastor say, “If you’re going to be a shepherd, you have to smell like the sheep.” Often times pastors struggle to know exactly what their sheep (church members) need. We want to obey God in leading and teaching exactly what He has commanded, but at the same time we can’t help but wonder if we’re meeting the needs of those entrusted to our care.

The good shepherd knows his sheep. He doesn’t just recognize them as a group of people who are members of the congregation; but instead, he knows them personally. He spends time with them, listens to them, strives to meet their needs. He is a shepherd who confidently walks out in front of the sheep and leads them to still waters and green pastures. He is not a sheep dog that tries to frighten the sheep into going a certain direction. He is the shepherd who calls his sheep unto himself and they follow him because they know him and his love for them.

In his article “9 Heartfelt Things Church Members Would Like to Say to their Pastors,” Dr. Thom Rainer helps clarify how we pastors can better lead, feed, and know our sheep.

Dr. Rainer writes:

I am among the most blessed men in the world. God has graciously saved me and sustained me. I have an incredible family. The place and ministry where I serve vocationally is a gift from God.

And then, as if I should be blessed even more, God has allowed me to serve and hear from church leaders across the world. In this article, I share some insights I heard from church members via social media, emails, blog comments, and personal conversations.

The following nine statements are heart matters for many church members. For the most part, these members are not the perpetual critics and the business meeting naysayers. These are men and women who truly love their pastors. But many of them do have some words from the heart they would like to share with their pastors. But many are reticent to do so, because they know their pastors often receive criticisms and inordinate demands for attention.

So, hear these heartfelt words from church members who love their pastors, from men and women who truly desire the best for them.

  1. “Let me know you really care for me.” That does not mean you call me regularly or that you visit me on demand. It is more of a disposition, or maybe words from the pulpit that demonstrate your love for the members. We can tell if you really care for us and love us.
  2. “Teach me the Bible.” I know you are inundated with requests, and the expectations for your time are often unreasonable. But please do not let those people distract you from your time in the Word. I am hungry for biblical teaching and preaching. Please spend time studying the Word so you can teach us well.
  3. “Help me deal with change.” This world and culture are changing so fast that I find myself dealing with fear and uncertainly. Help me understand the steadfastness of God in a turbulent world. And understand that my fear of change in the church is often related to my fear of change in the world. So lead me gently as you lead change in the church.
  4. “Don’t lead too far ahead.” I do want you to lead us. But don’t get so far ahead of us that we mistake you for the enemy and shoot you in the rear. I know change is necessary, but learn the pace of change that is best for our church.
  5. “Help me deal with family issues.” Some of us are in struggling marriages. Some of us are lonely whether we are single or married. Some of us have problems with our children. Some of us are dealing with aging parents. We hurt deeply when we have hurts about our families. Show us biblical truths about these issues. And show us your pastoral heart and concern for these issues.
  6. “Be transparent.” We know you are imperfect, but the critics sometimes cause you to hide your faults. For sure, we don’t want every nitty gritty personal detail about you and your family. But we do want to know that you have some of the same struggles we do. It helps us to identify with you better. It helps us to pray for you more.
  7. “Don’t get defensive when I offer constructive criticism.” I know that this one is tough. You get so many criticisms already; many of them are petty and self-serving. But there are many of us who love you and will, on rare occasions, offer some words that we think are best for you. Hear us without being defensive. Pray that God’s Spirit will help you discern when you should listen and when you should ignore.
  8. “Pray for me.” Please let me know that you love your church members so much that you pray for us regularly. Let us know that you consider prayer for the members to be one of your highest priorities.
  9. “Give me hope.” This world confuses me. This degenerating culture scares me. Show me how God has dealt with such hopeless times in the past that they may be times of hope for me today. Show me Christ’s possibilities, His hope, and His encouragement in difficult days.

Pastors, your task is not easy. Indeed, it is impossible without Christ’s strength. You have many church members who love you. They are often the silent members and, thus, the disregarded members. Hear these words from healthy church members that you might be even a better pastor to them.

What would you add, church member? What would you add, pastor or staff? How do these nine sentences resonate with you?

My blog post this coming Saturday: “Nine Heartfelt Things Pastors Would Like to Say to Their Church Members.”

Source: www.thomrainer.com

8 Commitments for Bible Study Leaders

heart of a servant leaderAs teachers of the Bible we have an awesome responsibility. We cannot afford to take this calling lightly. In the following post Chuck Lawless gives us eight commitments that every teacher of the Word of God should set as a goal.

I love teaching, especially when I’m privileged to lead studies from the Word of God. To be frank, though, teaching frightens me. It frightens me because teachers will be held to a stricter judgment (James 3:1). We have great responsibility, and with that responsibility comes accountability.

I am surprised, though, how little attention churches give to securing Bible study leaders and holding them accountable. Below are eight covenant commitments I would want them to affirm as they serve in the local church:

  1. I will grow in my faith and devotion to God through consistent personal Bible study. Bible study leaders have a tendency to teach from our reserves; that is, we teach out of what we learned in the past, perhaps at a time when we more faithfully read God’s Word daily. It is wrong to assume we can take on today’s teaching task on the basis of yesterday’s power. As a teacher of God’s Word, I want my personal Bible study to be present tense and growing.
  2. I will faithfully support the work of the church by regular worship attendance and financial giving. We teach not only with our words, but also with our lives. Bible study leaders who teach their group but who do not also support the church are likely growing their own kingdom more than God’s kingdom. As a Bible study leader, I want to model good churchmanship.
  3. I will be holy, knowing that what others do not see is as important as what they do see. Teaching is a public act as we stand before others and instruct. Preparation for teaching, though, is quite personal and private. When there is unconfessed sin, we lack the power of God that should mark all teaching of the Bible. The unholy Bible study leader imparts only information, but the holy Bible study leader imparts life. I want to be holy, not only for God’s glory and my good, but also for those I teach.
  4. I will teach the Word. This commitment is a non-negotiable, but Bible study leaders do not always practically keep this commitment. Conversations, food, fellowship, and prayer (all significant elements of a small group) consume the time set apart for teaching, and attention to the Bible is lessened. The wise Bible study leader takes the steps necessary to guard that time to focus on the Word. I want to meet my responsibility to lead the group clearly and intentionally to the Scriptures.
  5. I will faithfully prepare to teach each week. Let’s be honest—sometimes it’s easy to teach when you’ve done it for a number of years. We can study a little (or not at all) and still teach something. The group members might, in fact, think our teaching is great, but we know something else: we are missing the full blessing of God because we’ve not given Him time to move us in our preparation to teach. I want to long for the blessing of God when I stand before others as a Bible study leader.
  6. I will share my faith regularly and challenge the group to do the same. We must determine whether or not we will live what we lead. If we genuinely live what we lead, we will take initiative to tell others about Jesus. We will weep over non-believers because we trust the Word we teach. To not tell others is to reveal that our teaching is only for us and for people like us. It is to be selfish with the message we communicate. I want to faithfully reach out to non-believers because I believe the message I teach is life transforming. 
  7. I will seek prayer partners and pray for group members each week. We need others praying for us because we need God’s power to make a difference through our teaching. We need someone praying for us, “Lord, do not let them lead in their own strength.” Genuine prayer is a cry for relationship, an admission of dependence, and a means by which we minister to others. I want to be a prayer warrior on behalf of the group I lead. 
  8. I will strive to raise up new Bible study leaders and multiply my class. The evidence of good teaching is not only in the classroom; it is also in the lives of our hearers. The best Bible study leaders know their responsibility is to reproduce themselves in younger leaders—who will then start new groups. They might even take some of the best group members with them. If we cannot rejoice when that happens, our teaching is likely too self-centered. I want to train new Bible study leaders and start new groups gladly.

As Bible study leaders, we will answer to God for our service. What other commitments would you include in your Bible study leader’s covenant? And, because covenants are usually two-sided, what commitments should a congregation make to Bible study leaders?

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary

Source: Thom Rainer

10 Commandments for Guest-Friendly Church Members

i love my churchThis is a great post by Thom Rainer on how to make guests more comfortable when visiting your church.

  • Thou shalt pray for people in the services whom you don’t recognize. They are likely guests who feel uncomfortable and uncertain.
  • Thou shalt smile. You only have to do so for about an hour. Guests feel welcome when they see smiling people. You can resume your somber expressions when you get home.
  • Thou shalt not sit on the ends of the rows. Move to the middle so guests don’t have to walk over you. You’ll survive in your new precarious position.
  • Thou shalt not fill up the back rows first. Move to the front so guests don’t have to walk in front of everyone if they get there late.
  • Thou shalt have ushers to help seat the guests. Ushers should have clearly-marked badges or shirts so that the guests know who can help them.
  • Thou shalt offer assistance to guests. If someone looks like they don’t know where to go, then they probably don’t know where to go. Get out of your comfort zone and ask them if you can help.
  • Thou shalt not gather too long in your holy huddles. Sure, it’s okay to talk to fellow members; but don’t stay there so long that you are not speaking to guests.
  • Thou shalt offer your seats to guests. I know that this move is a great sacrifice, but that family of four can’t fit in the three vacant seats next to you. Give it a try. You might actually feel good about your efforts.
  • Thou shalt not save seats. I know you want to have room for all of your friends and family, but do you know how a guest feels when he or she sees the vacant seats next to you occupied by three hymnals, one Bible, two coats, and an umbrella? You might as well put a “Do Not Trespass” sign on the seats.
  • Thou shalt greet someone you don’t know. Yes, it’s risky. They may actually be members you don’t know. And you may get caught in a 45-second conversation. You’ll be okay; I promise.