Last week we started a conversation about fellowship. As a review let’s remind ourselves that inherent in the principle of fellowship are three key ideas:
- Fellowship means being a part of a group, a body of people.
- Fellowship means sharing with others certain things in common such as interest,
goals, feelings, beliefs, activities, labor, privileges and responsibilities, experiences, and
- Fellowship means a partnership that involves working together and caring for one
another as a company of people, like a company of soldiers or members of a family.
So, how does this pertain to Boys Camp at Greenwood Hills? For one, the staff (counselors, directors, support staff, and the camp staff) are a group of people (clearly). These dear believers share certain things in common – a desire to serve Jesus Christ by serving His people at Greenwood and share in a concern for the spiritual well-being of the campers.
Usually the first two aspects are relatively straightforward. It’s the third aspect that becomes a little less clear, a little less obvious, perhaps a little less present in our idea of fellowship. You see, the concept of working together involves everyone pulling in the same direction, everyone rowing in the same direction, everyone marching to the same beat. This is where it gets a little harder, a little more difficult for some.
Well-meaning brothers and sisters can be rowing contrary to the group, marching to a different beat, and not pulling in the same direction. It’s happened before at Boys Camp and it happens all too frequently in the local assembly.
This year, we had 118 campers. That’s the highest number of campers we have had in a long, long time. One would think that the logistics would have been more challenging or that the stress level would have been higher, but it wasn’t. And the solution, as noticed by several counselors and staff, was that everyone was pulling in the same direction. There was no “lone ranger”, no counselor having his own agenda, we were all in fellowship. It makes all the difference in the world. So, in a year when directing the camp should have been harder (because of the number of campers), it wasn’t. It was the best year in seven years of directing the camp.
The same can be true in the local body. Well meaning Christians can actually hamper the progress of the meeting by failing to march together, by failing to pull in the same direction. This usually happens when brothers and sisters have their own agendas. And, franky, one can even isolate the agendas to a few key areas – music, youth work, women’s ministries, and use of gifts. These seem to be the areas within the assembly that seem to attract the most attention from individuals who are trying to “make a name for themselves” or “trying to shake things up.”
Here’s a simple test as to whether you are really in fellowship or not – whether you are rowing together or rowing contrary to the body – has it been necessary for the elders to spend an unusually large amount of their time “with you” in regards to one or more of these areas? If so, you might need to start rowing in a different direction.
Until next week, fulfill your ministry!
Last week, Scott was kind enough to cover for me while I had the privilege of directing Boys’ Camp at Greenwood Hills Bible Conference in Fayetteville, PA. While directing the camp, I couldn’t help but think of another important New Testament principle.
In Acts 2:42, the Holy Spirit caused Luke to write “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The principle of fellowship is noted early on in church history and I would like to explore it more this week and next week in my blog.
Before we start our study on fellowship, I want to remind everyone of what makes a New Testament principle. A principle is “a basic truth, law or assumption.” So, a New Testament principle is “a basic truth, law or assumption that was established or expounded upon in the New Testament for believers seeking to follow the Lord Jesus as His disciples, individually or collectively.”
Please note, that in the early church, the saints devoted themselves to fellowship. They didn’t just “have fellowship” but they devoted themselves. This means that it was a priority and was purposeful, something that was meaningful to them, something in which they invested their time and resources.
Our common conversation about fellowship falls far short of defining real fellowship. We somehow confine fellowship to that which takes place in between meetings and often involves coffee and conversation. While that may be good, it’s not the biblical concept of fellowship. I am guilty of this type of talk too – especially when it provides justification for certain activities.
For example, I enjoy (or at least I did last year, this year it hasn’t been much fun) watching the Phillies play at Citizens Bank Park. So, if I take another young man from the assembly with me, we can call it “fellowship” and it seems far more spiritual than it really is! But, that kind of activity also falls far short of the biblical concept of fellowship.
Let’s look at how Mr. Webster defines fellowship. According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary it means: (a) companionship, company, associate (vb.); (b) the community of interest, activity, feeling or experience, i.e., a unified body of people of equal rank sharing in common interests, goals, and characteristics, etc.; (c) partnership, membership (an obsolete usage but an important one. It shows what has happened to our ideas of fellowship).
There are three key ideas that come out of this:
- Fellowship means being a part of a group, a body of people.
- Fellowship means sharing with others certain things in common such as interest, goals, feelings, beliefs, activities, labor, privileges and responsibilities, experiences, and concerns.
- Fellowship can mean a partnership that involves working together and caring for one another as a company of people, like a company of soldiers or members of a family.
Joe Reese, a gifted Bible teacher, has pointed out that another good definition of fellowship is “two fellows in a ship rowing in the same direction.” You can see how that meets the 3 key ideas.
So what does this have to do with Boys’ Camp at Greenwood Hills? Tons, but we’ll have to wait to next week for the connection and the application to our relationship with other believers in the local assembly.
Until next week, fulfill your ministry!
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Photo credit: R0uge (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
New Testament Tuesdays started back in the early spring with a series of articles by Jack Hay entitled “Which Church? A Problem.” In the series Brother Hay looked at 11 patterns, or principles, of how the early church gathered together in local congregations. Unfortunately, even a casual observer will note that there numerous discrepancies between what is commonly practiced in most local churches today and the pattern of meeting together as found in the New Testament. A PDF ebook of the series is available here for free.
After the Which Church? series concluded, Brother Mike Stoudt picked up Digital Sojourner’s Tuesday time slot and continued to write about various other patterns and principles found in the pages of the New Testament. Due to a prior ministry obligation Mike was unable to write a post for today, so I thought I could share a little about a subject found in the New Testament that I am currently studying: commendation.
What in the world is commendation you ask? Don’t worry you are not alone! The vast majority of evangelical churches never use the term nor practice the principle – even though the practice of commendation is clearly found in the New Testament. See Acts 11:19-26, Acts 13:1-5, Acts 14:24-28. Even a cursory reading of these passages will reveal that the church in Antioch recognized that the Holy Spirit had called out from among them two believers for a work that God had called them to.
Seems fairly simple… and it is simple. Unfortunately we like to complicate what God has made simple. Today most ecclesiastical circles will speak of “ordination.” Though the practice differs widely, ordination typically means that one has successfully mastered a prescribed religious curriculum, has been approved by an officially recognized inter-church ruling body, and has been ‘ordained’ during a special church ceremony. The one who has been ordained is then considered to be a member of a special class of Christians called “the clergy” and can hold certain offices and practice certain ministries that most other Christians “the laity” can not.
The modern practice of ordination may seem fine. Unfortunately, however, the practice can not be found in the New Testament. Because the practice is so common today many refuse to believe that there is no New Testament precedent regarding ordination. However, I would like to suggest that not only does the modern practice of ordination lack a Biblical foundation, in many ways ordination is actually contrary to New Testament teaching.
How is the modern practice of ordination contrary to the New Testament? Consider this…
- There is no ‘prescribed religious curriculum’ other than the Bible itself — no other book or even church history is authoritative. Revelation 22:18-19
- There is no ‘officially recognized inter-church ruling body’ sanctioned in the New Testament — The passages referenced above clearly show that it was the one local church alone that recognized what the Holy Spirit said. Acts 13:1
- There is no ‘special church ceremony’ described in the New Testament for this purpose. When the local assembly in Antioch ‘sent off’ Barnabas and Saul for the work that God had called them to do they fasted, prayed and laid their hands on them. Acts 13:3. This does not sound like an ornate ceremony with great pomp and circumstance — in fact the Lord Jesus taught against this. See Matthew 6:5-7 and Matthew 6:16-18
- There is no distinction made in the New Testament between the ‘clergy’ and the ‘laity.’ The New Testament actually teaches that all true Christians are members of the so-called ‘clergy’ — the priesthood of all believers 1 Peter 2:4-5 KJV
I know that this may sound shocking to you, so I would ask you not to take my word for it, but rather go to God’s Word alone and prayerfully study what God says about this topic.
Well, if commendation is not ordination — what IS commendation? From the above referenced passages in the book of Acts one preacher has defined commendation as “an action by a local assembly in which they recognize God’s call of one of their own for a specific ministry and they hand the individual over to the grace of God for His care and blessing.”1
So, commendation is simply…
- the local assembly recognizing that God has called one or more of their own for a special work. Acts 13:2.
- the local assembly giving way to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:2.
- the setting apart of the called believer(s) to the Lord. Acts 13:2.
- the setting apart of the called believer(s) for a specific work of God. Acts 13:2.
- the setting apart of the called believer(s) from the local assembly. Acts 13:2-4.
- an ongoing relationship between the commending assembly and the one commended. Acts 14:26-28.
- involves the entire local assembly. Note the multiple use of the word ‘they’ in Acts 13:2-3.
- involves the assembly fasting and praying. Acts 13:2-3 — in accordance with Matthew 6:5-7 and Matthew 6:16-18 both fasting and praying should be done in a spirit of humility, and in such a manner that does not draw attention to the ones who are fasting and praying.
- the local assembly identifying itself with the one(s) being commended as symbolized through the laying on of hands. Acts 13:3.
Therefore, commendation is something that is simple and spirit lead. All too often the modern church has added layer upon layer of rules and regulations to the simple and clear teaching of the Word of God. Yet, so many true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ seem to be blinded by the traditions of man.
So, what do you think? Has the modern church over-complicated and possibly even overruled the Scriptures with the modern practice of ordination? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts in the comments.
1William Yuille (June 27, 2012) Commendation, message given at Greenwood Hills Bible Conference, Fayetteville, PA.
Also special credit to: Tom Irwin (July 30, 2012) Commendation, message given at North York Gospel Chapel, York, PA
Photo credit: Chris Buggins, used with permission.
Last week we considered the topic of evangelism and, specifically, in relation to evangelism in a New Testament assembly. In my post, I suggested strongly that Jesus Christ’s command to “make disciples of all nations” was made primarily to individuals rather than to the Body. I’d like to substantiate that assertion, as well as, discuss the roll that the corporate Body plays in evangelism.
First, the Bible verses that charge us to share the Word of God are directed to the individual Christian. I don’t recall (but if you do, please share some verses) where the assembly corporately was instructed to “reach the lost.” (I think we need to hit the “refresh” button and double check ourselves on a number of verses. In many cases, I think the individual believer is being addressed and given various responsibilities and obligations, but we have abdicated the individual’s responsibilities to the corporate Body. There are various and sundry ways in which that has manifested itself. Lord willing, I will be addressing some of those areas in future posts.)
One of the Bible verses that I didn’t mention last week, but which proves my point here is found in 2 Timothy 4:5. Paul exhorts Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Timothy’s gift wasn’t that of an evangelist, but he is being exhorted to do the work of one. Why, you might ask? Because Paul recognized that each and every believer had the responsibility to share the gospel with the lost.
The second reason for my suggestion is that the spiritual gifts were given to individual believers to be used within the Body to train/equip other believers to do the work of ministry. Individual believers are being equipped to do the work – not the church, not the “pastor”, not the elders, but each and every believer is being equipped to do the work of ministry. And certainly, part of that work, is sharing the Good News with those who are lost and headed toward an eternity in Hell.
Here’s where the assembly comes into play. Every member of the Body has a spiritual gift that is meant to be used for equipping all the other members of the Body so that they can do the work that Jesus Christ gifted them to do. In other words, all the believers gathered together unto the name of Jesus Christ in your local fellowship has a responsibility to work together to equip one another to do the work of an evangelist (and other needed ministries).
Additionally, the believers within the assembly can encourage one another (daily) to do the work of an evangelist, to collectively meet the obligation to share the Gospel, even to provide funds to support those that are more active in the work. However, the responsibility remains with the individual. No individual can accurately complain that the “assembly” does not have a heart for the lost, or the assembly doesn’t reach out enough. We are individually responsible and we can’t abdicate that individual responsibility to the corporate body. If we call ourselves New Testament Christians, we must accept the responsibilities placed upon us individually. We so readily accept the corporate responsibilities, but we must also accept the individual ones.
Let’s encourage one another to be more vigilant as the days are short, we must redeem the time and fulfill our ministry.
Photo credit: Chris Buggins, used with permission.
Yesterday we had a missionary from Kenya speak at our church. He shared from the Word and gave a short report on his work. His subject was on relationships and how in Kenya building relationships is the most important thing. He then used that as a way to present how God considers a relationship with us the most important thing as well. It got me thinking. Why is it that some relationships are so much tougher to maintain than others? What makes a good relationship? What makes me a good friend or a bad friend? Here are a few thoughts on friendships.
1. Good friends show love
You would think that I wouldn’t have to list this here, but I believe this to be the essence of building strong relationships. As we grow in Christ, there ought to be an evident, tangible expression of love for others. If we look at the Lord as our perfect example, it was His love for us that sealed our relationship with him. We sang in the Lord’s Supper yesterday that He cannot cease to love us. It’s not just that he told us He loved us but that he showed it. So in turn we must show our love for one another.
2. Good friends show concern
My mind thinks of one of my best friends Roy. We get together about once a month for breakfast and have great fellowship at the church we attend. One of the things I appreciate about him is that he is constantly checking up on me and asking how I’m doing. He goes out of his way to make sure he says hi and to see how I am doing. When we get together each month, we catch up on what’s going on in each other’s lives. I so value that time we spend together.
3. Good friends play together
Ok this makes it sound like we are in the 2nd grade, but the point is that to build solid relationships there needs to be time spent just enjoying good company. This could be an activity such as a sport, group games or just heading down to the local park and sitting chatting. One of the greatest aspects of my local church is that we do a lot of fun stuff together. We have games nights, picnics, BBQs and other fun times together. It keeps us close as we have fun together.
4. Good friends eat together
This might seem similar the point above, but it’s not. There is something about eating with friends that takes on a different atmosphere. I believe it centers around talking. When we eat with others the main goal is to talk. That is often where lives are shared the most, hearts are opened and we see into each other’s lives.
5. Good friends open their homes to each other
I want to make a point here about hospitality. When I was young it was very common (several times a month) that we either had other believers in our home or went to other people’s home for fellowship. Almost always there was food (point 4), we would play some games (point 3) and often there was singing as well. I believe that hospitality has died out and that because of that not only are people’s homes closed, their hearts are too. It’s time we got back to this much needed practice. It doesn’t have to be a big meal. Often we would have people over after an evening meeting and ask them to pick up some snacks on the way. They were very glad to do that and the evening revolved around the relationship, not how fancy the food was or how tidy the house was. Maybe it’s pride that gets in the way of asking others to come into our homes.
6. Good friends forgive each other
This is sooooooooooooooooooo important. I put it last to emphasize how damaging it can be when a believer does not forgive others. It can divide families, churches and friendships. The Bible is clear that as much as Christ has forgiven us we MUST forgive others. What does it mean to forgive? It means to completely wipe away the wrong from our minds, hearts and actions. It essentially erases the wrong so that it never appears again. I have seen the damage of not forgiving and it’s not pretty. It’s time we laid down our pride and arrogance and reached out to those we have chosen not to forgive and mend the relationship. It’s not a choice, it’s what the Lord expects from us.
There are of course, many other aspects to friendships and relationship building. Whole books have been written on the subject. These were just a few thoughts that came to mind as I listened to the subject being preached. Thank God for giving us a body of fellow believers to love, care for, have fun with, eat with, open our homes to and forgive when needed. Let’s build stronger relationships and in doing so honor the Lord who built the greatest relationship of all by coming to be our Saviour.
1. Greater opportunities for communication enable believers spread out over the globe to connect
Believers may correspond, pray for one another, and share digital resources via the world wide web. This facilitates greater cooperation as Christians move from country to country in this era of globalization. Introductions can be made before a believer visits a far away place on vacation or a business trip. Some of my friends and I regularly conduct home Bible studies using Skype to teach others in various far flung places.
2. The internet is a needy mission field
Chat rooms abound with lonely, desperate people. Social media sites like Facebook and Google+ can be used for posting gospel verses, explaining Christianity, advertizing gospel meetings, etc. The proliferation of evil on the internet is well-known; yet this generation has a unique opportunity to publicize God’s love in Christ.
3. Disseminating God’s Word in audio, video, and written format in a multitude of languages
As a sort of mini-digital Pentecost, the internet is now a place for finding the Bible in almost any widespread language. Many sites play the Word in audio format; thus benefitting the visually impaired and those with long commutes to work (an mp3 player is a worthy investment for listening to Scripture, Christian podcasts, books, and audio sermons.)
4. Making available more Christian literature and study tools than have ever been available in the history of the world
Downloadable free software such as E-sword, The Word, and Bible Explorer 4 put hundreds of Bibles, commentaries, and language tools at the willing student’s disposal. Other online Bible sites – such as blueletterbible.org and biblos.com – place many tools on the web for easy access wherever there is an internet connection. Many helpful Bible apps (e.g. You Version) turn one’s smartphone into a mobile library. What is more, book.google.com and archive.org have the contents of millions of public domain works (i.e. books with expired copyrights) posted for online reading or for download in epub, kindle, and pdf. formats. Other sites like stempublishing.com and biblecentre.org are rich treasuries of the commentaries, articles, hymns, and other writings on the Scriptures by old writers like Darby, Kelly, and Mackintosh.
5. Intelligently praying for global missions and keeping in touch with specific missionaries
In former generations, missionary reports were conducted when a missionary came home on furlough. Now they may be conducted on the web by the means of services like Skype or Facetime. Instead of waiting months for the missionaries to receive news from home, or for praying Christians to receive news from them, emails may keep all parties in touch on a regular basis.
6. Penetrating closed countries with the gospel and edifying believers in those places
Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, and other countries are closed to open missionary work. The internet makes it possible to reach Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Communists and many others through gospel websites in the languages of those respective countries. Christians ought to pray for these efforts, as well as financially support those who are spreading the Word to closed countries through the world wide web.
7. Bringing the teaching and the preaching of saints who are now with the Lord to a new generation who may be unfamiliar with such ministry
In my teens and twenties, I was privileged to spend time with and sit under the ministries of several godly brothers who are now in glory. Many of their sermons are available at sites like voicesforchrist.net; thereby bringing the teaching of departed Christians of former days before the students of today.
This series of four posts are based on Keith Keyser’s final keynote address at the recent Why We Web Conference. This is the final post in the series.
Jump back to the first post in this series
Last week we looked at Ephesians 4:11-12 as key passage in understanding the New Testament principle that each believer is given a spiritual gift to be used for equipping the saints to do the work of ministry. The verse reads: “And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” And also, 1 Corinthians 12:28 “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administration, and various kinds of tongues.”
This week we are going to continue to look more in-depth at the spiritual gift of teaching. Teaching is a heart-to-heart endeavor that, with all the other gifts, is designed to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. Keep in mind that the goal is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. The goal is NOT to give every brother a chance to explain a Bible passage or to share how much we have studied and learned about a particular passage, the goal is unarguably to equip the saints.
Biblical teaching is NOT the same as explaining or expounding a Bible passage. Think, as well, on the passage in 2 Timothy. Paul writes to his younger brother who is actively engaged in ministry “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Notice again, that the goal is to equip the man of God for work – not to inform him (or her) so that they can pass a test or impress their co-workers, but to EQUIP them!
Both Jesus Christ and Paul handled the Truth in the same way – like a manual for life and ministry. Their teaching was more like that of a trade school than an academic setting. Paul’s letters clearly show that even in the structure where he lays out (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) biblical principles in the first part of his epistles and then the last section is filled with what to do with the principles. In other words, “here’s the truth and here’s what you do with it.” Neither of these men merely explained a passage, neither of these men spoke to their students’ heads, they were speaking to their hearts.
As believers who must be equipped by other believer’s faithful use of their spiritual gift, we need to be in prayer that the men of God who provide the biblical instruction to us and our dear brothers and sisters are men of God equipped to teach – equipped to teach with the goal of equipping to do work. We need to pray for men of God to take the platform who have a heart burden to speak to their listener’s hearts, not their heads. Most believers can explain a passage, but I would suggest that few, the ones given to the assembly by a Sovereign God as a teacher (or teacher-shepherd) are able to teach like Paul and the Lord.
Until next week, fulfill YOUR ministry using the gift given to you…
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6
“For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” 1 Timothy 2:13-14
The modern confusion over gender issues stems from humanity’s first parents’ ancient failure. Adam and Eve did not maintain their proper roles, which led to their disobedience to God’s Word. The Man failed to lead and thereby opened the pathway for his wife’s deception and the ensuing sin that snared each of them. By ignoring their divinely-ordained roles they brought terrible consequences upon their world and themselves.
The Danger Of A Leader’s Silence
Adam was created to lead. Eve was meant to help in the great work of subduing the earth (Genesis 2:20-24.) Unfortunately, it appears from the statement “She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6) that the man was present throughout at least a portion of his wife’s conversation with the tempter. This implies that he stood by and was silent, allowing Eve to do the talking and the serpent to dictate the direction of the discussion. Instead of silencing the adversary’s blasphemy, Adam remained quiet, and watched Eve disobey. He then followed suit by knowingly eating of the prohibited tree. Effectively he chose Eve over God. For his behavior, Adam is given chief culpability in the fall among humans (Genesis 3:17-19; see also Romans 5:12-19.)
The Danger Of Stepping Out Of Submission
When Eve stepped into the leadership vacuum left by Adam’s inaction, she placed herself upon dangerous ground that led to tragedy. She did not closely adhere to God’s Word and thus fell prey to deception. This resulted in her spiritual death before God, as well as the beginning of physical death in her body (a process which would not be finished for many a year, but which led inexorably to the separation of her soul from her body.) Further she put Adam in the difficult position of having to choose between their Creator and her. The guilt for his sin rests upon the man’s shoulders; nonetheless, Eve did not prove to be a fitting helper for Adam in Genesis 3.
It’s Deja Vu All Over Again!
Similarly today there is a dearth of men who are willing to develop their God-given mandate to lead in the world, the home, and the church. Too often men selfishly shirk their responsibilities in favor of an easier life or the gratification of their lusts. This in turn opens the door for women to usurp the authority of the man – willingly or unwillingly – in hopes of doing what needs to be done.
The failure of men to be leaders like Christ is at the root of the problems facing society, the family, and the church. Of course, they can only exercise this kind of loving servant leadership in the power of the Holy Spirit, and one can only receive Him by being born again through faith in the Lord Jesus who died on the cross as a sacrifice and then rose in victory. Likewise, in order to be submissive, godly helpers, women must have the power of the Holy Spirit enabling them to obey God’s Word. Only by being saved through faith in the Lord Jesus may they achieve their purpose in God’s program.
The church should serve as a microcosm of the new order of redemption in Christ. Accordingly, men ought to lead in the government of the local assembly as overseers (1 Timothy 3:1.) More basically they are given the privileged responsibility of vocally leading in the assembly in worship, praise, and teaching. The sisters are to remain silent, not teach, and not usurp authority over the brothers (1 Corinthians 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-15.) The men are to be uncovered and the women are to cover, so that the headship of Christ and glory of God may be seen among the angels (1 Corinthians 11:2-16.) In this way, the original creation order is restored: man offers godly leadership and the woman offers godly submission – all to the glory of God.
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Over the last few weeks, we have been considering worshiping God as He has prescribed it in the New Testament. In my series of 3 posts I referred to the truth that I was discussing as a New Testament Principle. Now it is time to turn to another principle found in the New Testament. I want to remind everyone of what makes a New Testament principle. A principle is “a basic truth, law or assumption.” So, a New Testament principle is “a basic truth, law or assumption that was established or expounded upon in the New Testament for believers seeking to follow the Lord Jesus as His disciples, individually or collectively.”
To introduce this next principle, let’s look at a few verses. Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV “And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” And also, 1 Corinthians 12:28 ESV “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administration, and various kinds of tongues.” Therefore, another New Testament principle is that God has given each believer a spiritual gift.
Most Bible students will quickly recognize that there are several passages that deal with spiritual gifts. A spiritual gift is a super-natural enablement given by God to you at the time of your new birth. This gift is given to you along with a ministry and a series of related works that use the gift in an appropriate setting to accomplish God’s purposes.
God was gracious enough to give us some examples of these spiritual gifts. (I don’t for a moment believe that every spiritual gift has been enumerated in all of the passages on spiritual gifts.) God was also gracious enough to tell us the purpose for the gifts being given. They weren’t given to us, by God, for our own personal enjoyment, or even our own personal ministry. They are not to be buried and “kept for later” or exchanged because we aren’t happy with the one(s) we received. Rather, they were given to us by God to equip the saints for the work of ministry.
Most of you are saying “brilliant” at this moment because that is soooo obvious. But, I would like to suggest that perhaps from time to time we have lost sight of the goal when discerning gifts in our local meetings, etc. I am thinking, at the moment, specifically of the gift of teaching. I fear that for one reason or another, we have made the gift of teaching a “rite of passage” where every young man (or middle aged or older) is given a chance (or chances or even the platform regularly) to “teach.” We all know that we don’t believe in a “one man teaching ministry” but yet, we have embraced an everyman, or nearly everyman teaching ministry. That is certainly not scriptural (more on that later.)
Teaching is a heart-to-heart endeavor that, with all the other gifts, is designed to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. We ought not to be merely explaining Bible passages Sunday after Sunday. Almost any brother who studies the Word can explain a passage! But, dear saints, that is not teaching as envisioned by God and described in scripture.
We are going to talk more about this next week, Lord willing. But until then…fulfill your ministry (and use your gift to equip others to do the work of ministry.)
The advent of the internet and the wider explosion of computer technology has opened the world to previously unimaginable opportunities in communication, education, and commerce, touching virtually every aspect of contemporary life.
This epoch-making change does not alter the essential mission of the Church. Believers must maintain the same core beliefs and practices, while using the new electronic tools for the glory of God.
The Mission Remains the Same:
1. Personal discipleship following the Lord Jesus Christ
E-mail, social media, and other ubiquitous aspects of online life must not be permitted to divert Christians from growing in their personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Bible programs and online study tools abound, but they will not pray for you or impart teaching by some mystical digital osmosis. Believers still need to spend time with the Lord, prayerfully seeking Him in His Word. They must allow Him to speak to them through His Word, and they must obey what He says.
2. Dependence on the Holy Spirit for His power and gifts
Electronic tools can give one a false notion of power. Real power comes from God via His Holy Spirit. Saints must permit Him to work in and through them, producing His fruit (Phil. 2:12-13; Gal. 5:22-26.) They may use the internet as a tool for evangelism, Bible study, fellowship, and everyday life; yet this all must be done in reliance upon the Lord.
3.Glorifying God in personal worship
The highest duty of saints remains to worship the triune God. Whatever they do or not do on the web, daily adoration of the living Lord must be the priority to Christians. As Psalm 29:2 exhorts them: “Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”
4. Carrying out the Great Commission
Before returning to heaven, the risen Christ commanded His church to “…Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen” (Matt. 28:18-20.) Believers must witness in real life, as well as online. The internet may be used as a tool to reach the lost with the gospel. It certainly must not sap our energy in holding forth the Word of life.
5. Edifying the Church
The church is to proclaim and teach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27.) Believers are to encourage each other and cultivate the fellowship that they have in the Church. What is more, they must pray for one another. The web may aid some of these efforts, but it cannot replace them.
In summary, the Christian Church must retain the same teachings and practices that the Lord Jesus Christ bequeathed to the apostles through His Spirit – the things that are recorded in the Bible for our instruction (John 16:13-15; Acts 2:42.)
This series of four posts are based on Keith Keyser’s final keynote address at the recent Why We Web Conference.