I’m thinking and praying about the church. What are the Biblical basics upon which I should be ordering my life and expending my resources? I really do prefer to begin with a foundation that is, to the very best of my ability, Biblical. So, let’s start there. By the way, this installment of The Shepherd’s Heart will not conclude this discussion, but intends to lay some foundations from which we can move forward. Also, in the hopes of providing a readable document, I have not included my Scriptural references. I have them, but inclusion would change the nature of this little essay; from a readable presentation of ideas to a study document demanding resource materials, quite a bit of time and a stout desk. For now, be encouraged to just read through. Here goes.
Ministry, emanating from the body of Christ of which every individual Christian is a part and should play a part, may be understood from the perspective of a Biblical view of the church. God, by His Word and Spirit, creates the church, calling sinful men out of the sin entrapped human race into the redeemed fellowship of Christ’s body. The church consists of God’s people, which means that they belong to Him and He belongs to them. Therein is a relationship that is secured, or guaranteed by God’s design/intent and character. Overcoming the fatal results of sin and reviving relationship with mankind was costly to God, but redeemed mankind, the church, is loved by God and agape love never fails.
By the same Word and Spirit, He guides and preserves redeemed humanity, they being sanctified in Christ and set apart for good works that will reveal God’s glory. The church’s purpose transcends worldly standards for identity and success. Therefore it is not merely a religious organization or a denominational assemblage of local like-thinking churches. Rather, the church is made up of those who have become genuine followers of Jesus Christ and have personally ‘put on’ the gospel as creed, perspective and guide, cooperating with the sanctifying work of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit.
Because of the glorious nature of God and mankind’s destiny to exist eternally in His presence the ultimate purpose of the Christian is worship. The church’s unique part in bringing glory to God is discipleship. Discipleship is that intentional process of maturing believers towards ever-increasing glorification of God. The means by which this is accomplished starts with the making of disciples through Spirit led preaching and God enabled embracing of the gospel. Discipleship continues as the church encourages and enables Christians in Biblical perspectives and in deepening relationship with God. The church cultivates the body’s ability to express Christ to the world by participating in a living communion (ministry), being Christ’s body and blood to the world around us, revealing God’s grace by the transformation in their own lives and offering God’s grace to others through their own actions and words.
I believe that when God transforms human nature, this becomes the chief means of society’s transformation. Upon salvation, newly redeemed men and women are added to a local church in which they devote themselves to teaching, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper and prayer. The cycle of ‘gospel revealing’ then continues, yielding new believers, a characteristic of the Kingdom of God being fruit. Within this cycle of new life the church, then, exists to worship and glorify God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to serve Him by faithfully doing His will on earth and in heaven.
All members of the church are to be a vital and committed part of a local church., personally expressing God’s agape love to individuals, Christ being our model for living sacrificially for individuals. It is the body that is gifted and equipped to reach into a life, uniquely expressing the gospel in comprehensible ways. In this context, they are called to walk out the New Covenant as the people of God and demonstrate the reality of the kingdom of God. The ascended Christ has given gifts to the church (including prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) for the equipping of Christ’s body so that it might accomplish God’s will. Through the gift ministries, all members of the church are to be nurtured and equipped for the work of the ministry. In the context of the local church, God’s people receive pastoral care and leadership and the opportunity to exercise their God given gifts in His service in relation to one another and to the world.
My philosophy of pastoring a church includes the oversight of all resources placed in a local church’s care, especially the gifts of the Spirit, and then the faithful stewardship of those resources. This includes intentionally discerning the gifts, passions, and leadings resident within the local body and then equipping and encouraging the exercising of those resources. The Pastor is responsible for this oversight but equipping and delegating these tasks is essential if the ministry is to be sustainable.
None of this happens independent of the history, culture, and values (spoken and unspoken) of a local church. The Pastor is accountable for discerning God’s leading of a local body and then facilitating course and cultural corrections within the life of that church, gracefully guiding change in a well lit atmosphere of Biblical truth and love. Biblical perspective and teaching is prerequisite to those elements and, in my opinion, is an area in which a Pastor is uniquely trained, gifted and held accountable.