Leading and Following in the Church

The position of pastor and elder are often used interchangeably. The church recognizes spiritual authority and sets apart some leaders for specialized ministry.

Is Authority Good or Bad? We certainly have been on the receiving end of an authoritarian leader, but what about in the church?

  1. God rules over all: (Daniel 4:34-35) and has absolute authority (Genesis 1:26-28, and we are made in his image).
  2. God ordained authorities: Governments and Parents (Romans 13:1-7, Ephesians 6:1-4). Authority is good when God ordains it, for our own good.

Elders are Called to Shepherd: We are like sheep in need of a shepherd (Psalm 23:1-6, Ezekiel 34, John 10:14-18, Jeremiah 3:15, Ephesians 4:11, Acts 20:17-38).

The Pattern of Plural Pastoral Leadership: the author leads toward elder rule in a congregation. He is an advocate of shared pastoral oversight. It guards against authority abuse and helps leaders to discuss the direction of the church.

Shepherds After God’s Own Heart: As shepherd, these leaders have a great responsibility.

  1. They faithfully feed the sheep (Jeremiah 3:15, 1 Timothy 3:2)
  2. They resist and rebuke false teachers (Titus 1:9-10).
  3. They care for straying and ornery sheep (Acts 20:28).
  4. They watch over the souls of church members (Hebrews 13:17).
  5. They set an example for others to follow (1 Peter 5:1-4).

Elder Qualifications: it’s not for everyone.

  1. Character (1 Timothy 3:1-7, see also Matthew 5:27-30, 1 Peter 1:13, Titus 2:1-12, Romans 12:13, Ephesians 6:4, 1 Thessalonians 4:12).
  2. Competence (Titus 1:9-10, 1 Timothy 3:2, 4-5).

Deacons: Servants of the Church (Mark 10:43-45).

  1. Servants (Acts 6:1-7, 1 Timothy 3:8-13)
  2. Qualifications (Philippians 1:1, Romans 16:1, 1 Timothy 3:8-13)
    1. Elders are required to teach, however, deacons are not.
    2. Elders have oversight and shepherding role over the congregation, deacon have to manage their household well (1 Timothy 3:5).
    3. Elders are primarily the spiritual leaders of the church, deacon are the servants.
  3. Defining the deacon’s role: they serve the body and their needs, and preserve the unity of the church.

How Well Do You Follow? (Proverbs 14:28)

  1. Leaders are nothing without followers. Like a teacher without a class. Like a king without subjects. Like a coach without a team.
  2. We are all called to serve one another in the church (Mark 10:43-44) and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).
  3. Deacons support (Galatians 6:6, 1 Timothy 5:17-18).
  4. Deacons submit (Hebrew 13:17).
  5. Deacons respect and esteem (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).

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Real Church Growth

The church is an organism (a living thing) more than an organization, and since all living things grow, what does that same about a church that doesn’t grow? Growth is called discipleship. It is a life-long process we call sanctification, becoming more like Jesus over a lifetime.

The Meaning of Discipleship: Listen Watch, and Follow (Acts 9:10, 26, 36).

  1. Listen to Jesus’ teaching (Luke 6:40, Mark 1:14-15, John 16:12-15, 5:39).
  2. Watch Jesus’ life (Matthew 9:35-38, 10:5-9).
  3. Follow Jesus’ footsteps (Luke 9:23-25, 1 Peter 2:21-25) We follow his life but also his suffering.

How to Grow as a Disciple: Instruction

  1. Why learning is crucial to discipleship: (Acts 20:32, John 17:17, Romans 12:1-2) God’s Words builds us up and sanctifies us. Our mind leads the way for our actions. It is God who speaks to us, bringing conviction, comfort, corrections, and encouragement.
  2. Who does the teaching? (1 Timothy 5:17, Titus 1:7-9, Romans 15:14).

How to Grow as a Disciple: Imitation

  1. Some things are better caught than taught.
  2. Timothy’s Models (2 Timothy 3:10-17, 1:5, 2 Timothy 2:2).
  3. The benefit of multiple models (Philippians 3:17-4:1).

A Culture of Discipleship: Culture defines what we think is normal; habits, expectations mores.

  1. Older teaching the younger (Titus 2:1-10)
  2. The centrality of the church in discipleship (Ephesians 4:11-16) There are many ways and functions but we cannot do everything outside of the local congregation. The main way to grow in Christ is through the church body. Church relationship should be as normal as breathing. The church permeates everything, it is not a club or a program.
  3. Ar you making disciples? (2 Peter 1:5-8) Are these yours and increasing? Everyone called by Jesus is to be used by Jesus to reach others.

Others-focused Growth and a Focus on Growing Others: The New Testament is other-focused. We must seek to serve others, especially those in the faith (Galatians 6:10). Every Christian has a part to play on this team.

  1. How does Jesus define greatness (Mark 10:42-45)?
  2. How do we embody the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)?
  3. Who must we strive to please (Romans 15:1-2)?
  4. Disciples made simple: it doesn’t take a super-Christian, and you can’t make the excuse that you have nothing to offer someone else. We are gifted to serve (1 Corinthians 12:7).

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The Church’s Front and Back Doors

A building has bricks. A flock has sheep. A vine has branches. A body has members. Being a Christian means being joined to a church. Christianity is a team sport. Every team has a roster to know who is in and who is not. Members have privileges and responsibilities. The group has leaders who have charge over our growth.

Why Join a Church? The church is not just any social club. The church is a battleship, not a cruise ship. The church has eternal goals. Basically, the church exists for those who are not yet members.

The Embassy of Jesus: An embassy represents the king or president or people of another country. When people see us, we represent the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:13-20, 18:15-18, 19). The church has authority. One way for Christians to submit to the authority of Jesus is to submit to the authority of the church. When you are drafted in the NFL, you report to the new coach and receive the team’s playbook and jersey. You are not identifying as being on this new team.

  1. All those who believed were baptized into the church (Acts 2:37-41).
  2. It is assumed that every member is going to participate in a local church (1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Ephesians 2:19),
  3. It is assumed that members will submit to their leadership (Hebrews 13:17).
  4. It is assumed that members will submit to the church, not just join the church.

More Than a Name on a List: Many people don’t think much about church membership because they assume it is just your name on a list.

  1. Membership defines the church: every team has a roster to know who is in and who is not (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). Some people are on the outside and we don’t expect that person to live for Christ. Membership carries implications that members will change their behavior. Membership defines the boundaries of the church, who is in and who is not.
  2. Membership defines the Christian life: Don’t give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25, Colossians 3:12-17). Never forget the “one another” passages; they cannot be done outside of the community. To have the greatest impact, there must be close proximity.
  3. Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness: these are promises for now and for eternity (1 Timothy 4:7-8, 1 Corinthians 15:10).
  4. God disciplines us for our good: that we might share his holiness (Hebrews 12:3-11). Discipline may be hard in the moment but pays off in the end.

Run Well, Stay on Track, Get Back on Your Feet: we discipline ourselves when training for an event, or learn to do something the right way. We must exercise to behave like a follower of Jesus.

  1. Help each other run well (Ephesians 4:11-13, 15-16)
  2. Help each other stay on track (Hebrews 3:12-13) don’t make the wrong turn (this is preventative discipline).
  3. Help each other get back on your feet (Galatians 6:1-5).
  4. The goal is to finish well (2 Timothy 4:6-8, Hebrews 12:1-2).

Dealing With Sin in the Church: what do we do with someone who claims to be in the church yet lives as though they don’t know God?

  1. Jesus’ instructions (Matthew 18:15-17). This is regarding sin against ourselves. The goal of this process is to bring repentance and restoration. When someone repents and asks for forgiveness, case closed (Ephesians 4:25). Other apostles carrying out the teaching of Jesus…
    1. Paul’s experience in Corinth with a sinning man (1 Corinthians 5:6-7) to exclude him from the fellowship.
    2. Paul commands us to warn a divisive person many times and then have nothing to do with him (Titus 3:10-11).
    3. John warns about having any fellowship with those who teach a false gospel (2 John 10-11).
    4. What about elders who persist in sin (1 Timothy 5:20)?
  2. The goal of discipline is repentance and restoration, not punishment (2 Corinthians 2:5-8).

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Connecting Purity and Witness

What does it mean to become a Christian? Are we making disciples or simply converts? How does one understand salvation mean justification, sanctification, and glorification? Conversion is not reciting a creed, it is a conversation. It is not reaching some milestone or rite of passage but walking on a life-long journey of becoming more and more like Jesus.

What Makes Someone a Christian?

  1. Being born in America?
  2. Not being something else, like a Muslim or Hindu?
  3. Simply believing there is a God?
  4. Being a nice person or good citizen?
  5. Someone who prayed a prayer or walked an aisle?

Authentic Christianity: trusting in Jesus alone for save them from their sin. It is about God’s grace, our response of faith, and repenting of sin that has been forgiven.

  1. As Savior (Acts 2:21, 4:12, 16:31).
  2. As Lord (Acts 2:36-38, Romans 10:9-10).
  3. Proof – a transformed life (John 8:31-32, 14:15, Matthew 7:21-25) following his commands.

Are You Sure You’re a Christian? (Matthew 7:22-25, 2 Corinthians 13:5, 1 John 5:13). There are two tests to be certain.

  1. Belief (1 John 4:15, 5:1).
  2. Life (1 John 3:1-10, 11-18, 4:7-21).
  3. Patterns, not perfection (1 John 3:6, 1:8-10, John 14:15)

Christians Aren’t Born, They’re Made – meaning it is a process.

  1. By God (John 3:1-8, 1:12-13, Ephesians 2:1-3, 4-5)
  2. Through the gospel (1 Peter 1:23, Romans 10:9-17)
  3. Our response (Mark 1:15, Acts 16:13-14) repent, believe, baptism.

Evangelism 101: This is a privilege, not intended to produce guilt. Let’s define evangelism…

  1. Evangelism is telling non-Christians the good news about what Jesus did on the cross to bring salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
    1. God is holy (1 John 1:5) and creator of all things (Genesis 1:1).
    2. All people are sinners who deserve God’s wrath (Romans 3:10-19, Mark 9:48, Revelation 14:11).
    3. Jesus is fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to bear God’s wrath in the place of those who trust their salvation in him, who rose from the dead (John 1:1, 1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 7:26, Romans 3:21-26, 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21, 1 Corinthians 15:20-22).
    4. The only way to be saved from eternal punishment and be reconciled to God is to repent of sin and trust Jesus alone for salvation (Mark 1:15, Acts 20:21).
  2. Examples of evangelism (Acts 8:1-4, 26-40).
  3. Mandate to evangelize (Matthew 28:16-20). We preach and God works out the details. We can’t force people to respond, that is the work of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 55:10-11).

The Church is God’s Evangelism Program: It is not up to individuals or para-church organizations, but the mandate of the church (the body of Christ). We faithfully preach the gospel, gather for worship, and grow in faith.

  1. City of a hill (Matthew 5:13-16).
  2. Displaying the gospel (John 13:34-35, 17:20-21).

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The Truths on Which Churches Build

It is important to read the Bible, but HOW do you read the Bible? Find a random page and point to a verse? Chapter by chapter in a certain book? Following a devotional book that jumps from topic to topic? Word studies? Doctrine studies? Topical studies? Understand a passage in the Bible ids all about context of who wrote it, where it is in the Bible, what precedes or comes after the passage, and letting the passage drive the message rather than seeking support for what we already believe.

Listening to the God Who Speaks: Theology may be intimidating but it is all about “God Talk.” It’s about the knowledge of God. A couple of problems with theology include:

  1. Christians can’t agree on details of theology, so why bother?
  2. Doctrine divides, mission unites.
  3. Studying theology waits time we could be telling people about Jesus.
  4. Theology fills us with pride: we are to love people not correct their doctrine.

Since God is the one who has revealed himself to us through the Bible, what can we know about him?

God Spoke Creation into Existence: When God speaks, things happen (Genesis 1:3, 5, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, Psalm 33:6, 9, Hebrews 11:3). Our God is powerful and spoken words brought things into existence.

God Speaks His People into Existence: God reveals himself to his people (Genesis 12:1-3, Ezekiel 37:1-11). God creates people anew through his Word.

God Reveals Himself Through Speaking: What we know about God is through what he has revealed and spoken (Exodus 33:18-19, 34:6-7, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Through his self-revelation and people writing it down, we know about God’s character, desires, plans, and mission for the church.

Listening to the God Who Speaks: When we hear him speak, are we listening for what to do with what we hear? In the Bible we read about the wonderful things he has done for us in Christ. Theology is really the careful listening to and reflecting on what God said, in order to respond rightly in our lives.

The Lifeblood of the Church: This is not the books, Bibles, classrooms, lectures, and sermons. Theology is also not a sideshow in the church, limited to an occasional seminar or class.

Theology is for Life: To get healthy, we feed on God’s Word. Theology is not just information on a page but becomes our marching orders in this life (Romans 12:1-2). Read the theology of Ephesians 1-3 and immediately after the lessons comes the practical application of Ephesians 4-6. How are we to be imitators of God and how should walk in this life (Ephesians 5:1-2)? Truth is for transformation. Listen and follow.

The Lifeblood of the Church: Breaking news, it is theology. What is a requirement of a pastor (Titus 1:9-10)? Upon what does Paul insist (Titus 3:4-8)? Sound doctrine is the bread and butter of the church. This makes the church different from any other social gathering. We are not a club, we have a mission and a textbook (Colossians 3:16-17). We come together to worship God and to build up one another. Theology spills over into everyday life. We help each other grow into maturity (Ephesians 4:16).

The Greatest Story that Ever Happened: The Bible is a big book, so where do we start? The Bible is not like reading a novel but it is a running narrative; the scarlet thread through it all is Jesus. God is revealing himself through the whole Bible, leading his people toward the cross and redemption of mankind. This is one epic story.

The Grand Overview of the Bible: Jesus is on every page… (Acts 7:2-53, 13:16-47)

  1. Historical Books: the beginnings, creation, choosing a people, God interacting with his people, and how sin earned God’s judgment.
  2. Wisdom Literature: how to rightly relate to God and live in a world broken by sin and brightened by God’s promises.
  3. The Prophets: these convict the people of sin and point them toward God’s future provision of salvation and restoration, and how God will save the nations.
  4. The Gospels: these are the stories of Jesus and how God provided the Messiah to fulfill the prophetic expectations for his people. The story of Jesus tells us about the sin-bearing Messiah Deliverer, and the death and resurrection of Jesus. These books present the teaching and example of the sinless one who came as a ransom for the world.
  5. The Acts: how the story spread cross the empire and how the church was birthed, established, and grew.
  6. The Epistles: these letter teach believers how to live out their faith in a world that opposes the gospel.
  7. The Revelation: like the prophetic books of the Old Testament, this one reveals that which is hidden, and what will happen in the future, bringing eternal destinies to fruition for the righteous and the wicked.

What Difference Does the Story Make? Since the Bible is one interconnected story, how we interpret it and apply it to life is of utmost importance (Luke 24:25-27, 47, John 5:39, 2 Corinthians 1:20). The Bible is the main witness to God’s saving work in Christ and invites us into that story. This book is much more than a divine rule book, but the story of how God redeems us from sin and death.

Living Inside the Bible Story: While the Bible is not about us, it is certainly FOR us, and we are to live within that story. Future promises are OUR promises. The Bible explains why things are the way they are. We see God’s plan for salvation throughout the pages. From Genesis to the Revelation, this is about new creation and how to be saved from the effects of fallen humanity.

The Best News Ever Told: At the heart of every story is a bit of good news, the best news. The gospel means good news. Why is this good news?

Gospel Confusion: Even among fellows believers, they don’t agree on what the gospel really is.

  1. A message on how to live a better life.
  2. The message of God wanting to be your friend.
  3. That God wants us to be happy, healthy, and wealthy.
  4. That God wants us to transform the world through us.

The Gospel in HD: We don’t have to figure out what the gospel is, God tells us in the Bible. Here is the best definition ever (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Note the phrase, “first importance.”

  1. The gospel is missional: it was preached to others.
  2. The gospel is Christological: it’s about Jesus, notice the words HE.
  3. The gospel is Scriptural: notice the phrase, “according to the Scriptures.”
  4. The gospel is Theological: notice the he “died for our sins” bringing salvation and reconciliation.
  5. The gospel is Historical: Jesus appeared to many in this passage, it was an historical event.
  6. The gospel is Personal: notice the repeated word, YOU.

The Gospel at Work: How does one deal with sin in their life? How is one made right with a holy God? How does one share this good news with others?

Growing Gospel Fruit: How do we define fruit? Consider these types of fruit…

  1. Character (Galatians 5:22-23)
  2. Conduct (Philippians 1:11, Colossians 1:10)
  3. Contributions (Romans 15:28)
  4. Converts (John 4:36, Romans 1:13, 1 Corinthians 16:15, Colossians 1:6)

Growing Gospel Fruit in the Church: corporate fruit may look like this…

  1. The gospel grows forgiveness: (Ephesians 4:32, Matthew 18:21-35).
  2. The gospel grows unity: (Philippians 2:1-11).
  3. The gospel grows generosity (2 Corinthians 8:8-9)
  4. The gospel plants seeds: through preaching, teaching, worship, and discipleship.

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