“These Are Your Grandbabies!”

by Bob Kelleman at The Resurgence blog

Sister Ellen Barney is the first lady (i.e. senior pastor’s wife) of a predominantly African-American megachurch near Baltimore, Maryland. For over a decade she has equipped over 1,000 women in her Life Encouragers and Disciplers ministry.

They do it up big! Their graduation ceremonies are better than many colleges. I remember the first time Sister Ellen invited me to be their commencement speaker. As she introduced me, she looked over the crowd of over 50 graduates, looked at me, and said, “These are your grandbabies, Dr. Kellemen! You trained me, and I trained them!” Now, years later, as Sister Ellen has trained trainers who train others, she tells me, “Dr. Kellemen, these are your great-great-grandbabies!”

 

The Ministry Mindset Shift That Changes Everything

 

Do you want to be a spiritual grandparent, someone who disciples disciple makers? It requires a ministry mindset shift implanted by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:11–16.

 

“And he gave . . . the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11–12

Christ’s grand plan for his church is for pastors/teachers to focus on equipping every member to do the work of the ministry. In the context of Ephesians 4:11–16, that work is nothing less than making disciple makers through the personal ministry of the Word.

When leaders and members fulfill their purposes together the body of Christ builds itself up in two specific, cohesive ways: doctrinal unity and spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:12–13). When a congregation knows the truth not just academically, but personally, their love abounds in knowledge and depth of insight (Philippians 1:9–11).

Speaking the Truth in Love

We often miss the vital real-life, how-to application of the every-member-making-disciples idea that Paul embeds inEphesians 4. How does the church come to unity and maturity? Exactly what are pastors equipping people to do? Specifically how do members do the work of the ministry?

 

Paul answers: by “speaking the truth in love,” we grow up in Christ (Ephesians 4:15). Every word in this passage funnels toward this remarkable phrase “speaking the truth in love.”

 

Christ’s grand plan for his church is for every member to be a disciple maker by speaking and living gospel truth to one another in love.

Paul selects an unusual Greek word, alētheuontes, that we often translate as “speaking the truth.” Actually, we should translate it both as speaking and living the truth. We might even coin the phrase “truthing.”

Paul likely had Psalm 15 in mind where the psalmist asks the Lord, “Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” He answers (emphasis, mine): “He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart” (Psalm 15:2). Who can serve in God’s sanctuary, the church—the one who embodies the truth in relationships.

 

The word for “truthing” that Paul uses means transparent, truthfulness, genuine, authentic, reliable, sincere. It describes the person who ministers from a heart of integrity and Christ-like, grace-oriented love. It paints a picture of the person whose relational style is transparent and trustworthy.

The tense and context indicate that the body of Christ should continually, actively, and collectively be embodying truth in love as it walks together in intimate, vulnerable connection. In one word, Paul combines content, character, and competence shared in community (cf. Romans 15:14).

While the word means more than speaking, it does not mean less than speaking. While it means more than sheer factual content, it does not mean less than the gospel fully applied.

 

Paul uses the identical word in Galatians 4:16. There he is clearly speaking of preaching, teaching, and communicating the truth of the gospel of Christ’s grace (salvation) applied to daily growth in Christ (progressive sanctification).

 

Every Christian Makes Disciples

Combine Galatians 4:16 with Ephesians 4:16, both in context, and we find an amazing description of gospel-centered biblical counseling, the personal ministry of the Word. Speaking the truth in love involves communicating gospel truth about grace-focused sanctification in word, thought, and action through one-another relationships that have integrity, genuineness, authenticity, transparency, and reliability, done in love to promote the unity and maturity of the body of Christ for the ultimate purpose of displaying the glory of Christ’s grace.

The normal agenda and priority of every Christian is to make disciple makers. Christ’s training strategy for disciple-making involves pastors and teachers equipping every member to embody the truth in love through the personal ministry of the Word (biblical counseling).

 

What happens when leaders focus their calling on equipping God’s people to make disciple makers through the personal ministry of the Word by speaking and living the truth in love? Paul shows us in Ephesians 4:16: the body in robust health grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work. In other words, we birth spiritual grandbabies.

This post was adapted from material in Dr. Kellemen’s book, Equipping Counselors for Your Church.


Loving the Church – gifts in the church

Since the Bible does not provide detailed surveys and tests to help you determine your spiritual gifts, you can be sure that you don’t need such things to discover and use your gifts! The best advice I have heard for finding and using your gifts is to go to work within the church. What kinds of things do you want to do at church? What kinds of ministries have you participated in that have seemed most fruitful? In what kinds of roles have your spiritual leaders found you to be most effective? Don’t worry about what exactly your gift is. All Christians are commanded to carry out all the responsibilities that the gifts represent (except for the miraculous ones).

~ Crotts, John, Loving the Church, Kindle Edition.

Loving your church – the whole body in action

When the Head looks down at his body during a workout, he expects to see all of the body parts functioning at peak performance.

~ Crotts, John, Loving the Church, Kindle Edition.

The Blessing Of The Trinity

by James White

A true and accurate knowledge of the Trinity is a blessing in and of itself.

Any revelation of God’s truth is an act of grace, of course, but the Trinity brings to us a blessing far beyond the worth normally assigned by believers today.

Why? Because, upon reflection, we discover that the Trinity is the highest revelation God has made of himself to His people.

It is the capstone, the summit, the brightest star in the firmament of divine truths.

As I will assert more than once in this work, God revealed this truth about himself most clearly, and most irrefutably, in the Incarnation itself, when Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, took on human flesh and walked among us.

That one act revealed the Trinity to us in a way that no amount of verbal revelation could ever communicate. God has been pleased to reveal to us that He exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since God feels it is important to know, we should likewise.

And since God went through a great deal of trouble to make it clear to us, we should see the Trinity as a precious possession, at the very top of the many things God has revealed to us that we otherwise would never have known.

When Paul wrote to the Colossians, he indicated that he was praying for them. He did not pray that they would obtain big houses and fancy chariots. He prayed that they would be blessed by God in the spiritual realm with spiritual wealth.

Note his words: That their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3)

How is one “rich” spiritually? One is rich spiritually who has a “full assurance of understanding.” How many people today can honestly claim to have a true understanding of God’s nature so as to have “full assurance”? Or do most of us muddle along with something far less than what God would have for us?

A person who has such spiritual wealth, seen in a full assurance of understanding, has a “true knowledge” of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself. The goal of the Christian life, including the goal of Christian study and scholarship, is always the same: Jesus Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Do we long for a “true knowledge” of Christ? When we sing, “Lord, I want to know you,” do we really mean it, and then take advantage of the ways He has given us to attain this “true knowledge” of Him?

To know Christ truly is to know the Trinity, for God has not revealed himself in such a way as to allow us to have true and balanced knowledge of the Father outside of such knowledge of the Son, all of which comes to us through the Spirit.

A person who wants to “know Jesus” must, due to the nature of God’s revelation, know Him as He is related to the Father and the Spirit. We must know, understand, and love the Trinity to be fully and completely Christian.

This is why we say the Trinity is the greatest of God’s revealed truths.

~The Forgotten Trinity (p. 14- 15). Kindle Edition.

Are the scriptures actually considered authoritative in your church?

from Covering and Authority blog:

One of the realities I’ve come accept is that not everyone who acts as if scripture is their authority really believes in scripture as an authority. That might seem obvious to some but it seems rather hard for people to identify in an abusive church situation.

In churches where dubious teachings are promoted like Coverings or the Prosperity gospel the scriptures are often quoted but not accurately represented or properly applied. Many people in these churches who have suffered from obvious unbiblical behavior try to challenge the leaders with scripture but are completely rejected.

There is one good explanation for this.

Many of these abusive church leaders don’t care about scripture in any material way. Some undoubtedly have deceived themselves in to believing some kind of false theology because it benefits them in some way. Others are nothing more than scam artists.

When confronted with the obvious errors of their teaching they will try all sorts of tactics to avoid dealing with the reality the critic they are facing.

They might deflect by denying what they truly believe. Others will try to say that they simply have a different and more valid interpretation of scripture. They might appeal to some toothless accountability mechanism. More often than not valid biblical critiques are met with harsh resistance, defamation and counter accusations. Surprisingly a lot of Christians will endure this because they were taught not to “touch the Lord’s anointed” and live in fear of being a “rebel.”

If the scriptures truly are an authority in someone’s life you will observe the following:

  • A real effort is made to interpret the scriptures accurately
  • Hearts, minds and actions are changed by interacting with scripture
  • People will endure pain, discomfort or loss in order to follow the teachings of scripture
  • Humility of heart and recognition that interpreting scripture accurately can hindered by one’s cultural context, personal agendas and bias
  • Recognition that there can be several valid interpretations

If the scriptures are not a true authority you will observe the following:

  • Scriptures are patched together in order to make a point without regard to context
  • The scriptures are used only to provide weight to the leader’s agenda
  • There is no willingness to change or sacrifice based on the instruction of scripture
  • Scriptures are interpreted with reckless confidence without recognition of bias
  • Recognition of other valid interpretations is rare
  • Biblical concepts are infused with meaning that doesn’t reflect their biblical usage often to serve the agenda of the leader. In scripture the phrase “touch not the Lord’s anointed” is far more about not physically harming the king of Israel than disagreeing with a spiritual leader.

How Can Service Efforts Help a Church to Introduce People to Jesus?

by Michael McKinley at 9Marks blog

This article is simultaneously posted at leadershipjournal.net

There’s a lot of discussion out there about how a church’s service efforts fits with its mission to spread the gospel.  But in my experience, there are two simple ways that a congregation’s acts of mercy can help with its gospel witness:

•       First, our deeds of mercy can create opportunities to share the gospel.

As I speak, people are in the basement of our church building stocking the shelves of our food pantry.  At a typical Saturday distribution, hundreds of needy people will come to the church building to receive groceries.  Those people hear the gospel when the food is delivered and our church planters that serve their community often make follow-up appointments to continue sharing Christ with them.

It’s pretty simple, the act of service creates a point of contact; it creates a relationship between the church and the individual that would not otherwise exist. At that point, it’s the responsibility of our church members to seize that opportunity to build a friendship (through a shared meal, a visit, a personal conversation) and to continue bringing the gospel to bear on that person’s life.

•       Second, our acts of service give credence to the gospel we proclaim

Our actions often speak louder than our words. And while words are essential in our evangelism (hence Paul’s “And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” in Romans 10:14), our deeds can help to break down barriers with skeptical or disinterested people.

Our church has an outreach program for at-risk students at a local high school. We gather the teenagers on Wednesday night, feed them dinner, teach the Bible to them, and give them a safe place to hang out and have fun.  As opportunity arises, we provide for some of their practical needs (food, housing, coats, supplies for their babies).  The love of the congregation for these young people has made the gospel attractive to them, it “puts feet” on the word we’re preaching to them.  Even the teachers and administrators at their high school are beginning to wonder about the church that loves their students. In this sense, our faith is shown in our service to those in need (James 2:14-18).

There is a real danger that our churches might become so focused on mercy ministries that they begin to neglect the proclamation of the gospel.  But that need not be the case. When properly conceived, our acts of service can be a tremendous tool for introducing people to Jesus.

The ultimate good of the gospel

by John Piper

The ultimate good of the gospel is seeing and savoring the beauty and value of God. God’s wrath and our sin obstruct that vision and that pleasure. You can’t see and savor God as supremely satisfying while you are full of rebellion against Him and He is full of wrath against you. The removal of this wrath and this rebellion is what the gospel is for.The ultimate aim of the gospel is the display of God’s glory and the removal of every obstacle to our seeing it and savoring it as our highest treasure. “Behold Your God!” is the most gracious command and the best gift of the gospel. If we do not see Him and savor Him as our greatest fortune, we have not obeyed or believed the gospel.
God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself