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Posts Tagged ‘1 Corinthians 12’

If you have read Kevin’s post from yesterday, then you know that the Southern Baptist Convention passed a proposal calling churches to repent from their failure to faithfully practice regenerate church membership (i.e. the members of a local church ought to be believers–those who have been regenerated or born again of the Holy Spirit). I was greatly encouraged that this proposal passed and am excited about the fact that many SBC churches are being challenged to take church membership seriously.

This emphasis on regenerate church membership was not the prevailing focus of the convention, nor should it be; the theme of the SBC this year was “fulfilling the mission” and many people spoke of the need for something of a “Great Commission Resurgence.” Let me go on record and say that I wholeheartedly support this theme and agree that the SBC needs a Great Commission Resurgence! However, I want to make the point that if we really are to be “Great Commission” churches, we must take seriously the Bible’s clear teaching on regenerate church membership. For the sake of simplicity, let me give you three reasons why regenerate church membership encourages and enables churches to fulfill the Great Commission:

Regenerate Church Membership . . .

1. encourages the restoration of strayed members and the evangelization of former members now deemed to be lost. As Kevin mentioned in his previous post, practicing RCM separates the wheat from the tares. The first step in reaching out to absentee members is inviting them back into the fold. Once you realize that a certain number of your members are absent from the body for less-than-biblical reasons and are not members of another local church, then you may identify such members as tares (i.e. exercise Church discipline) and begin to reach out to these people with the gospel. If we allow those who are absent from the body continue to call themselves members of the church, we do a great spiritual disservice to the absentee member and to the church as a whole. It is a disservice to the absentee member because we are allowing him/her a false assurance of conversion–which according to their actions we ought not give them (Matt. 18:15-17). It is a disservice to the church because if we continue to let those who “are not of us” to think they are of us (1 John 2:19) then we will not reach out with the gospel to such members who are living unregenerate lifestyles.

2. encourages church members to recognize their responsibility to each other and to maintain a consistent witness. In other words RCM allows pastors to focus on training and equipping members to fulfill the Great Commission rather than waiting for a pastor to fulfill it! When we set the bar on what it means to be a member of our churches a little higher than checking a box on the “tear-out” in the bulletin, we encourage every member to realize that their witness, service, ministry, and fellowship in the body matter and have an impact on the lost world around them. If there are members missing from the rolls, it is a problem for the church–because every member has a responsibility to every other member of the church (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-25). Practicing RCM encourages church members to see themselves as a vital part of the body of Christ and gives them responsibility to care for one another and responsibility to join in fulfilling the church’s mission of making disciples of all nations.

3. encourages churches to maintain a consistent witness to the world. Jesus taught his disciples (Matt. 5:1) in the Sermon on the Mount, saying “You are the light of the world . . . let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16). Furthermore, Paul commanded believers in 2 Cor. 6:14, “do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” This verse has been most often applied to marriage (and it should be applied to marriage) but I think it could accurately be applied to the church. The church is by its most common New Testament definition, an assembly of believers. Thus when the church yokes itself to unbelievers, its members will fail to truly live as the lights of the world. The witness of the church is marred when its members fail to live as they ought–this is multiplied greatly when churches fail to care for such members with loving, restorative church discipline. SBC churches ought to be embarrassed of the corporate witness we have given when some 10 million of our “members” are absent each week from our primary worship services. If we continue to fail to practice RCM, we will continue to communicate to the world that we do not care for our absentee members and that members of our churches are really not any different from unbelievers.

I have heard it said that we cannot judge who the tares are in our midst–only God can. While that is true on some level (no church will ever be able to practice RCM perfectly in this life), we must be faithful with what the Lord has given us. Also, it should be said that the “field” in the parable of the wheat and the tares is the world and not the church (Matt. 13:38), thus we ought not be content simply to have tares on our church roles.

If we hope to truly begin a Great Commission Resurgence (as Danny Akin called for), then we must expect those who are to fulfill the Great Commission (i.e. church members/believers) to live less like the world and more like Christ. Further, for such a resurgence to take place, we must place the responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission not only on pastors but on the church as a whole and every member who comprises it! Every member is commanded to make disciples of all nations! If we hope to have any success in beginning a Great Commission Resurgence, we must repent from our failure to practice RCM. If we truly hope to make disciples of all nations, we must also teach them everything that Jesus commanded us (Matt. 28:20) which includes the concept of the church being the light of the world and one body (Eph. 4:4-6) in which its members are commanded to care for one another (1 Cor. 12:25).

If we are to truly fulfill the Great Commission, we must be faithful to serve, care for, and shepherd those the Lord has placed under our care as churches. What good is it for us to add more members to our roles if we exercise the same neglect of such members and allow another 10 million members to go missing on Sunday morning? The church is called to fulfill the Great Commission and it will fail to do so, if it continues to neglect those in its midst.

I think there are many ways in which regenerate church membership encourages/enhances our efforts to fulfill the Great Commission. I have certainly left some of those ways out of this post, so what do you think? How does the faithful practice of RCM affect/enhance our fulfilling of the Great Commission?

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What Does your Building Say About Your Church?We talk a lot about the church here at Elect Exiles but the church isn’t a building, it is an assembly. More specifically it is an assembly of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and gathers to worship the triune God. So if our church buildings do not constitute the church, do our buildings really matter?

If the local church is truly the body of Christ gathered, then I think our buildings matter because as the body of Christ gathered, we represent Christ himself. We gather for his glory and we gather to hear the preaching of his gospel. So what do our churches communicate about Christ? What do they communicate about the gospel?

Does your building communicate that your church is wealthy or poor? Does it communicate your church’s interest in the arts? Is it modern, medieval, or puritan in its architecture? Is it neatly divided into sections for the various age demographics of the church?

In view of that last question, I’ll give you an example of how church buildings often fail to adequately honor the gospel. I am going to go out on a limb and say that the vast majority of churches (at least medium to large-size churches) have wings of the church for the various age groups in the church. Sometimes moving from wing to wing, in the larger churches, feels like changing area codes. Furthermore when you traverse from the ‘senior adult area’ to the ‘youth area’ its almost as if you have traveled through time as well!

There is much more that could be said about this, but I just want to pose a couple questions. First, if Scripture sets forth parents as the primary disciplers of their children (Deut. 6:4-9; Eph. 6:4), then why do we send children and parents to opposite wings when they arrive at church? Secondly, if every member of the body is called to minister to every other member of the body (12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:12-27), then why do we send people to whole other buildings when they arrive?

I know there are many well meaning churches with divvied up wings for differing age groups, but in this post I merely want to put the issue on the table. Is your church divided by age-group or united around every member building up every other member in the faith?

What does your building say about your church? What does it say about the gospel?

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It is interesting to note that the one chapter of the New Testament that extensively addresses the charismatic gifts opens with this statement: “Pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophecy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). This statement, of course, is building on 1 Cor. 13:13, which tells believers to abide in “faith, hope, and love,” the greatest of which is love.

Tongues and Private Prayer LanguagesLove must be at the forefront of our minds as we discuss spiritual gifts. Love after all is the “more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31) and the one virtue in 1 Cor. 13 that will not pass away. Thus as we come to the topic of the charismatic gifts, it is a helpful to remind ourselves that Paul is much more concerned with commanding believers to live in love toward one another than he is with encouraging the use of the charismatic gifts. That is not to say that the charismatic gifts are unimportant. They are important because 1 Corinthians 14 addresses them in some detail. But as we seek to make sense of the charismatic gifts, let’s not forget the threefold purpose of spiritual gifts—to glorify God, edify, and promote unity in the church (See Spiritual Gifts 101 and 201). Thus we must apply the threefold purpose of gifts to the charismatic gifts as well—any proper use of the charismatic gifts ought to fulfill this threefold purpose.

The later half of the book of 1 Corinthians addresses specific questions that the church at Corinth had likely asked Paul in a previous letter that they had written to him. Thus Paul addresses some very specific issues to the church at Corinth such as what to do about lawsuits among believers (1 Cor. 6), food sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 8), and whether women in the church should wear head coverings (1 Cor. 11—each of these issues would make interesting posts!). 1 Cor. 14 is no different—Paul is only addressing their use of spiritual gifts because they had previously written to him concerning the use of spiritual gifts in the church. Paul in fact, seems to be addressing improper uses of spiritual gifts in the Corinth. The church at Corinth was plagued with factions—believers were boasting of which spiritual leader they followed (1 Cor. 1:11-13; 3:1-4; 11:18) and worse certain believers of lower standing were being neglected in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20-22, 33-34). Thus it is in this context, of divisions and factions, that Paul addresses the way the church at Corinth had been exercising their spiritual gifts. (more…)

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