Monday, July 30, 2007

Some Postmodern Motivational Posters

Phil Johnson posted these motivational poster parodies of the emerging church movement. You can go to this web page he created where you can print them if you want to. Here is a small sample. Enjoy!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Biblical Church Leadership – Pt 11

Biblical Qualifications of Elders (Continued)

“ 3not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.
4He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity
5(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),
6and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.
7And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:3-7, NASB)

Verse 3 continues with the qualifications of elders with “not addicted to wine”. Not only must an elder not be given to drunkenness, but he should not even be seen as a drinker. He needs to be careful where and with whom he associates with. If he is a man who frequents bars he can easily be accused of being a drinker. His thinking must never be distorted by alcohol, and must lead a lifestyle that is distinctly different from that of the world. His life should set an example for others, inspiring them to lead a life of holiness.

He should also not be “pugnacious”, meaning that he should not be constantly ready to fight and engage in physical violence. He should be “gentle” and “peaceable”, which means that he should be gracious and not desire to hold grudges, not quick to fight and avoids disharmony. He should also be “free from the love of money”. His motivation should come from a love for God and the people under his care. The opposite trait, covetousness, is a character displayed by false teachers, not those who are genuinely committed to God. Being peaceable and gentle does not mean that there are not occasions where elders should not be tough. There are times when the elder must be tough on false teachers and take action against the spread of false teaching. (Titus 1:10-13; 2:15) He must also confront other sinning elders. (1Timothy 5:20) He must at times be confrontational and authoritative. But there must be balance and the elder must also maintain an attitude of warmth and compassion.

It is important that the elder demonstrate leadership in his own household. If his leadership cannot be modeled there, it certainly will not be demonstrated in the church. It includes everything that would be associated with his household. His children must be respectful, under control and display a reverence for God. And this should be carried out in such a manner that those observing his home life could say that it is managed excellently. And this is where the issue of divorce can come into play. If a man is divorced, it illustrates a major flaw in his spiritual leadership. It is obvious that the home was not managed well. And even if there were biblical grounds for a divorce, there would need to be a long period of time elapsed to demonstrate strong family leadership. This may not seem fair in the case of a biblically permitted divorce, but remember, the overriding principle for qualified elders is that they be blameless. There must not be anything that could be used against them that would incur blame. If a man cannot take care of his home, he certainly will not be able to take care of the church.

The last qualification is that he is not to be “a new convert”. The danger here is that his pride would be a stumbling block. Pride caused Satan to fall. (Isaiah 14:12-14, Ezekiel 28:13-15) I have observed that in some churches, there seems to be too much eagerness to promote men to positions of leadership who simply are not ready for it. This is tragic and sets him up for a fall and also in the long run hinders the church. There needs to be a great deal of consideration of the qualifications of the man. And it takes time to build leaders. There is definitely a maturing process that must take place before they are fit for spiritual leadership. (1 Timothy 5:22) He must also have an excellent reputation with those outside the church. Remember the key issue is that the elder must be blameless.

Well this post marks the end of the series on Biblical Church Leadership. Leadership is extremely important in the church and the men who are chosen to lead the church can affect the spiritual health of the congregation in a positive or detrimental way. If you want to read an excellent resource on this subject, I recommend Alexander Strauch’s book, “Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership”. Another excellent resource is the 9marks website.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Biblical Church Leadership - Pt 10

Biblical Qualifications of Elders (Continued)

"2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, "

The candidate for elder must display a “hospitable” attitude toward others, displaying a welcoming and generous spirit. The Greek is composed of two words that essentially mean to love or show affection to strangers. In the early church, believers had to depend on each other’s hospitality for their survival. This included helping other believers who were strangers who perhaps needed to flee their homes in another town due to persecution. I can’t help but wonder, in our society that stresses individualism where self-sufficiency is highly prized, if it does not make this concept more difficult for people in the church to truly grasp today. Christians who are heavily persecuted in other countries probably have a greater appreciation for this.

The next trait is “able to teach”. The elder must be skilful in his teaching ability. This is extremely important, since this will be one of his primary duties. This is more than merely being able to teach, but more importantly, the content of their teaching. There are those who can teach, but they are teaching the wrong things. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us that that leadership must be proven skilful handlers of God’s Truth. Elders are to be able to lead the church in matters of doctrine and practice, and unless he is able to handle the Word of God with precision and accuracy, he will be unable to accomplish this task and is unqualified to lead. Furthermore, any who display a sloppy careless attitude toward Scripture should not considered for eldership and any who are already in leadership displaying this trait should be dismissed. Sad to say, this is seldom taken into account in evangelicalism at large. Much of the problem lies in the fact that churches do not understand the Scriptural mandate for church leadership, so they follow the world’s standard, not God’s. Too many leaders are chosen simply because they display considerable charisma and can garner a wide following. Just because people are following someone does not mean they are fit for biblical leadership.

Let’s take a brief look at 2Timothy 2:15.

"15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15, NKJV)

I quoted that passage from the NKJV, because I think it captures the meaning with a little more sharpness. The phrase “rightly dividing the word of truth” literally means to cut it straight, and it denotes the precision and accuracy that God demands in the handling of His Word. It is unfortunate that a large majority of evangelicalism places little emphasis on this important quality. Instead, the emphasis seems to be on the eloquence of speech and mere communication skills. This is not to say that strong communication skills are not important, but that the content of what is said is even more important. Scripture, in references to leadership in the church, places great emphasis on the accurate handling of God’s Word. Let’s look at another passage, 1Timothy 5:17.

“ 17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.”(1 Timothy 5:17, NASB)

Elders who serve with a greater commitment and strive for excellence are to be held in high esteem, and deserve to be paid more generously. In particular, those who work the hardest and seem to be more prominent should be acknowledged with greater honor. What is implied in this text is that there are elders who are particularly driven to work harder at studying Scripture for preaching and teaching. The phrase “work hard” literally means to labor to the point of exhaustion. This further underscores the premium Scripture places on the importance of preaching and teaching by the elders in the church. Preaching involves the open proclamation of biblical truth, with the intention of exhorting and admonishing the congregation to take heed to God’s Word. Teaching emphasizes instruction in doctrine and is essential to protect the flock against heresy. Preaching and teaching are essential to the health of the church. And this desperately needs to be emphasized, especially in the current climate in the evangelical church.

Paul also exhorted Timothy to “preach the word”, whether it was popular or not. This was to be done regardless of what people wanted.

" 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." (2 Timothy 4:2, NASB)

I hope to finish up this series in part 11. Hopefully I will be posting it early next week. It is a little difficult right now to post with any great frequency. There are too many things going on, especially during the summer months.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Biblical Church Leadership – Pt 9

Biblical Qualifications of Elders (continued)

“1It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” (1 Timothy 3:1, NASB)

In verse one, the terms “aspires” and “desires” are used to describe the attitude of the candidate toward the office of “overseer” or elder. Aspires means to “reach out after”, and denotes an external action, not just internal motive. The second word, “desires”, means to “long for”, have “strong passion” which refers to an internal desire. This describes an individual who is driven to externally pursue the position of leadership because of a strong internal desire to do so. This is important because unless the man is strongly motivated to fulfill this role, he will not have the drive necessary to succeed in carrying out his God-given duties. Pastors should not be coerced into such a position. When you think of all the pressure one will be under in this position, the only thing that will sustain him will be the heart’s desire to see people respond to God’s Truth and grow spiritually. The last thing that a congregation would want is a man who stands in the pulpit only because he feels he has to. That type of man will never make the kind of leader necessary to fulfill the obligations of pastoral leadership. In 1 Peter 5:2 elders are exhorted to serve with a sense of divine calling and an urgency to fulfill the task at hand. This should be with eagerness, not indifference or laziness. Elders should be self-motivated and should not need to be constantly prodded along to fulfill their tasks.

“2shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;” (1 Peter 5:2, NASB)

In addition to having the desire for the office of elder, a man must meet certain qualifications. The overarching qualification is that he must be “above reproach”, meaning that there is no wrongdoing that he can be legitimately charged with. In other words, he must be blameless. This is crucial since he is to be an example to the people under his care. The remaining qualifications expand on the requirement to be “above reproach”.

"2An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach," (1 Timothy 3:2, NASB)

Next in the list, “the husband of one wife”, literally means “a one-woman man”. This really isn’t speaking of his marital status, but his moral purity. While issues such as divorce do indeed factor into the fitness of a man for eldership, the focus here is on his sexual purity. I will discuss the issue of divorce as we proceed further in the list of qualifications. But this matter is crucial since this tends to be a weak point that often leads to failure in the life of many leaders. Unfortunately, we witnessed the tragedy of this occurring in the life of the pastor of the church we were members of for several years, where he became involved with another woman in the church. The key concern with this qualification is whether or not the man is what we would call a “womanizer”. Does he tend to be flirtatious, or is he dedicated to his wife and honor her in marital faithfulness. This is no small matter especially if you have ever observed the adverse effect the sexual sin of a pastor has on the congregation. This sin will obviously negatively affect his walk with the Lord. And it is inevitable that it will cloud his thinking and render him useless to provide spiritual direction to his flock. Having been part of a congregation where this took place, I can certainly testify that the consequences are terrible. If the pastor is in no condition spiritually to provide guidance to the congregation, the inevitable outcome is that the congregation will wane spiritually, and it won’t be long before sin permeates the congregation. As Alexander Strauch points out:

“If the elders are not faithful, one-woman husbands, they will subtly encourage others to be unfaithful.” [1]

This leads into the next qualification that he is to be “temperate”. The word in the Greek is “nefaleo”, and it means to be sober, abstaining from wine or at least its excessive use. However, used in the context here, it means to be “sober-minded” (as it is translated in the ESV), especially since the very next verse deals specifically with the subject of consumption of alcoholic beverages and states that he is not to be “addicted to wine”. "Temperate" here means that he is to be “alert”, “watchful” and “clear-headed”. It is vitally important that elders display the capacity to think clearly so that they can keep vigilant watch over their own life and the congregation. This is why it is so important that the elders take great care to be sure they are not allowing their minds to be distorted by material filled with warped doctrine. You can learn a lot about where a man is headed theologically by the types of books and materials he utilizes and claims have had the most impact on his life. I am not referring to books of a questionable nature that he may be reading to discern how false teachers are twisting the truth, but the books that he relies on for theological guidance that are making an impression on his life. In essence, the elder must not allow himself to be intoxicated by teaching that will distort his thinking, whether it is false doctrine or worldly philosophy. Paul in Acts 20:28 warned the elders in Ephesus to “be on guard” for themselves and also “for all the flock”, knowing that the “savage wolves” were just waiting to come in among them and devastate the flock.

The elder must also be “prudent” and “respectable”. The term “prudent” comes from the Greek word “sofron” and means to be “self-controlled” and able to restrain his desires and impulses. In other words, he does not react impulsively, but he is to be disciplined in his life, especially spiritual matters and is able to prioritize spiritual matters making them the utmost importance. This leads into the next quality, “respectable”. This means “well arranged” or “orderly” (from the Greek “kosmio”). This means that they are able to order their lives in such a manner as to not be in a state of constant chaos. If they are not able to accomplish this in their own life, how will they be able to keep order in the church? The ability to maintain order is extremely important to keep the church from degenerating into a state of chaos.

(To be continued...)

1. Alexander Strauch, "Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership", p. 71.