Thursday, July 31, 2008

New building tour

We can't take all of you through the new building yet due to safety. However, Michael Smith is going to walk you through via video here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Studying the Bible for yourself

Most people take one of two primary positions when it comes to studying the Bible for themselves. They either 1) Ignore it or 2) Abuse it. Quite frankly, from my experience, that is understandable because one of the main reasons this happens is that they have never been taught how to study God's Word.

I hope to improve on this in the corner of the world God has blessed me to serve with the church family known as ClearView. Over 5 Wednesday evenings beginning August 6 we will look at how to study the Bible for yourself.

If you are in the Franklin area, join us. If not, you should be able to find the audio files here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Church Membership - Why does it matter? (Part 3)

We pick up where we left off in the last post ...

I saved these next three for last as they bring up secondary issues some will struggle with more than the membership issue. I won't have space to fully address each of the issues raised, but welcome questions.

[#'s 1 and 2 are in the previous post]

Biblical reasons for church membership ...

3. Membership is implied by the way a church is supposed to implement church discipline.
Now, there's a subject you don't see brought up in many churches ... church discipline. In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus gives clear instructions on handling conflict as christians. The final court of appeal, as seen in v.17, is "the church". So, the question is, how do you define who makes up this group called "the church"? Any issue that would reach this level of attention would be considered a very sensitive issue. Do you then allow just anyone that calls themselves a christian become a part of this process. To place someone in the position of an unbeliever as v.17 indicates is a very serious matter. Church membership becomes the tool that defines who is to be involved in such a situation.

4. By virtue of the fact that excommunication even exists assumes the existence of church membership. In 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 Paul instructs the Corinthian church in matters of dealing with one in the church that refused to walk away from his blatantly public sin. He tells them to "put them away" (v.13). How can you tell someone they are no longer "part of the church / body" if the church / body is not clearly defined? Formal removal is impossible without some way to define who is already in.

5. Membership is implied by the instruction that a group of Christians are to be submissive to church leaders. I spoke to the impact this has on church leaders in the previous post. Clearly there is heavy responsibility placed on the shoulders of church leaders. The leaders will one day stand before The Judge and answer for how they have handled their responsibilities in such matters. But Hebrews 13:17 clearly instructs a group of Christians to allow themselves to be held accountable to church leaders. Question: What group is placing themselves under the authority of what group of leaders? How do you obey this command? The only way I know is by having a clearly defined group of people following a clearly defined group of leaders. And the only tool I know to do this is formal membership.

Again, I realize the concepts of church discipline, authority, submission to leaders, etc. present their own challenges in the minds of some. The purpose of this post is not to argue for those concepts (I'll let the Scripture stand on those as it clearly does). The purpose of this post is to give further insight into why membership is a biblical concept.

Stay tuned for posts on such matters as baptism, Lord's Supper, Spiritual Gifts, and other matters pertaining to church membership. I will include some light posts between these weightier ones to keep this blog from becoming too heavy ... I promise :-).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Church Membership - Why does it matter? (Part 2)

I grew up in a Pastor's home so the question of whether or not a Christ follower would join a church was a question I never even thought to consider. To be a Christian , in my mind, would assume you were a member of a local church. I discovered as I began to pastor that this is not the case for many. I had a pastor friend in a church near the church I pastored in GA that would often boast of the fact that they had no membership in their church. So, I had to examine my own beliefs about this issue. Is membership important? Why or Why not? More than that, is church membership biblical?

You may attend the church I pastor every time the doors are open, you may attend any function of the church, and you can be a member of a small group (in our case Sunday School class) and not be a member. If you trust in Christ alone for your salvation you may even observe the Lord's Supper table with us and still not be a member. So, why would anyone want to be a member?

In the New Testament the local body of Christ is the visible demonstration of the universal body of Christ (all those throughout history that have trusted Christ alone by faith for their salvation). As Rick Warren is famous for saying, "There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian". "But Mark, I still don't have to be a member of a church to have relationships with other Christians." Correct, you do not. So why membership?

Let me share several biblical reasons I believe in the seriousness of church membership and why I believe scripture clearly implies it is necessary.

1. Membership is implied in the metaphor "the body" found in 1 Corinthians 12:12 and following. The New English Version, the old King James Version, the New Revised Standard version as well as others use the term "members" in that verse to refer to the various parts of the body. Paul is obviously writing to the church in Corinth about the church.

Now, my hand is 100% committed to the other parts of body. My hand will protect the other parts when necessary, it will cooperate with the other parts (my knee does not go to one city while my hand goes to another), it will assist in other ways when necessary. Why? Because it is, without question, identifiably a part of the same body. My hand is not as committed to another body because it does not feel pain when that part of another body feels pain. It does not experience pleasure when the other body experiences pleasure. And on and one we could go.

In addition, if you saw an attachment to my body that did not fit ... let's say a basketball permanently attached to my foot ... you would know immediately that does not belong. Why? Because it is not a committed part of my body.

So, the question is, who intends to be treated as part of the body called "ClearView" (in my case)? The only way we have of knowing is a tool called "membership". And by the way, the term used is not important. "Membership" just happens to be the term we use and a term that communicates to the broadest number of people.

2. Church leaders are instructed to care for the church in their charge. I alluded to this in "Part 1" of this post. Acts 20:28 is Paul's farewell address to the leaders of the church in Ephesus and he clearly instructs them to "guard the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers".

My instruction is clear regarding the flock for which I have responsibility. Question: What is my responsibility for the flock at Church B a mile down the road? Am I going to give an account for how I shepherd them (Church B) some day? No. Their pastor will give an account for his flock ... just as I will for the one I serve. So does my flock include all those who show up on any given Sunday? Of course not, because I can't know who they are. There has to be some way to account for the flock for which God has given me responsibility.

1 Peter 5:1-3 also gives some very strong exhortation to church leaders. The word I want to key on is in v.3. It is the word "entrusted" and it means "lot" or "portion". There must be some way to define what that lot or portion is. You would not purchase a piece of real estate from me without some kind of specific definition of the lot. So, who will I one day give an account of before God? My lot / portion. Again, the only tool we have for defining that is "membership".

We will look at several more biblical reasons for church membership in the next post. Feel free to leave comments if you have questions. Remember, I am looking to make this part of the content for a revised New Members Class in the future, so I welcome questions or comments.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Church Membership - Why does it matter? (part 1)

I am in the process of rewriting the material we will be using in our New Members Class. So, I will share some of the content here as I go. The final version may only have parts of what I post here. And it may have more. But I will use this blog as something of a running journal of notes and thoughts to be used. I realize many of you that read this blog are not members of ClearView and will never be as you live many miles away. Hopefully, you will find these posts helpful in whatever church you may be a part. If you are not part of a church, maybe these posts will encourage you to consider it.

I realize as I write this, there are many today who are choosing to walk away from the "institutionalized church". I won't go into that too deeply for now. But I will say you need to be careful before making such a decision. The Church, no matter how messed up it may be, is still the Bride of Christ. Careful how you treat Her.

The first area I will address will be church membership itself. Does it matter if we "join" a church? Can we not just attend a church without "joining" and becoming a member of that church? Why can't I just attend several churches at once? After all, I like Church A's music and Church B's summer programming and Church C's women's ministry. So I will sort of mix and match to form my own church.

I have been doing some reading in this area recently. I commend Mark Dever's A Display of God's Glory: Basics of Church Structure and Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches edited by Thomas White, Jason G. Duesing and Malcolm Yarnell.

By "church" I am referring to a regular assembly of people who profess and give evidence that they have been saved by God's grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. I will get into a list of reasons church membership should matter to all of us, but for this post I want to leave you with a verse that has been weighing heavy on me for the past 14 months (since returning to pastor a local church).

Paul was saying farewell to the Elders of the Church at Ephesus. This was part of his words about the church (local body of believers) he was leaving behind.

28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.
Acts 20:28 (HCSB)

We are not to neglect Her (the church). We are not to leave Her. We are not to become cynical about Her. We are not to abuse Her. We are not to exploit Her. GOD BOUGHT HER WITH HIS SON'S OWN BLOOD! God has now appointed me as an overseer of ClearView. The weight of that becomes more evident every day. I will answer for my leadership of every individual that is a part of ClearView.

But what does this mean to the individual who is a member? Or considering becoming a member ? The church and membership in any particular church is a very serious matter. So, how are we to think of such things? We will look at this over the next several posts.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Grades and your future ...

Are grades really important? The answer is, "yes, of course they are". So parents, as you read this, you can know I absolutely believe grades are important.

If you were about to have brain surgery wouldn't you like to know the grade your doctor got in Incisions 101 or Brain Anatomy 301? I think I would. But then again, maybe not.

I was looking for some information in my office today and came across an old notebook from seminary. Many of you that read this blog know that I am currently preaching through the Book of Acts on Sunday mornings at the church I serve as pastor. I came across some notes and tests from a class I took on the Book of Acts. Now, keep in mind, I was pastoring a church full time 90 miles from school, raising a toddler, taking a full load of classes, blah, blah, blah (Can you see what's coming?). I found a test on which I scored a 75 in Acts. Ugh!

So, I had to look to see what I missed. Oh my! Where was my head? I was probably sleeping through class (see the note above about driving 90 miles one way, etc.) the day they gave the notes for that test. Oh, this is so embarassing. I promise, I am much more focused these days as I prepare.

Just thought this was funny (sort of).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What makes vacations meaningful

We left Franklin a week ago yesterday (July 2). We spent several days with my mom and dad in S. Ga. (see last 2 posts). We (my wife and two daughters) have been at the beach the past few days. We make our way back to Franklin today and tomorrow retracing our steps through S. Ga. to pick up our dog who has been at my parents' while we have been at the beach.

Here are a few thoughts on the value of vacations as I sit and reflect this morning:

1. Spiritual renewal - It is easy to get in a rut in our lives spiritually. Getting away from the routine of every day activities at home, it is easier to refocus on the part of life that means the most. A change of pace in our quiet times with the Lord. A change of scenery during those times (the beach helps :-)). Because of what I do, I find it easier to get away from the grind of study for the next message and read and study in areas I otherwise might not have the time to do.

2. Family - With our girls being 19 and 21 we are all heading in different directions constantly when at home. Funny what a small condo, some skee ball, a go cart race or two and hours sitting next to each other by the pool or on the beach can do for conversation. What a great time to connect in some areas we may have overlooked had we been going the 1000 mph we go when at home.

3. Mental refocus - It is easy to miss the forest for the trees when you go at it constantly on the job. I appreciate the change in perspective a few days away can give.

We've had a great few days.

Thank you Lord for times of rest and refreshment!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

July 6

I preached today at FBC Colquitt (where my Dad is Pastor). The people in the south put the smile in friendly. They were so warm at that church.

But I must say, I missed the people at ClearView today. I was reminded again why I love preaching to the same people each week. There is just something about being home with the people that know you and you know them.

I can't wait until next Sunday!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

July 3, 2008

My family and I are taking a few days away for vacation. We are in Colquitt, GA visiting my parents for a few days. This small town is like a movie set. Small town square. A small theatre where they have some live plays. Population 1750. We just witnessed the Fourth of July fireworks launched from the city park.

Mom and Dad moved down here after the First Baptist Church in town called Dad as pastor. Quite a story over the past couple of years since his coming as pastor. The church has doubled in Sunday School attendance and tripled in worship attendance (now over 350 average). The church hosts an annual wild game dinner (big hit in these parts) that draws upwards of 750. This small church in a tiny town in South GA (life gets no slower) has baptized 77 new believers (it will be 82 after this Sunday) over these couple of years. The majority of new believers are adults. How did it happen? Relationships.

The Pastor (Dad) goes to breakfast at the local hangout where many of the town's leaders have breakfast every morning. While building their trust and their respect he began to share the gospel with them and one by one several of these city influencers have come to Christ. Most of them long past an age most of us would have given up on them.

Oh yeah, did I tell you this new pastor in town (my Dad) will be 69 years old in November? Think retirement from Kingdom work is an option. I don't think so :-)! I have been challenged again in seeing all God is doing in a sleepy little town in a church that most would have considered hopelessly bound by its past in a cycle of status quo.

No matter your age and no matter how long it has been since you have sensed a fresh touch from God, it is not too late.

By the way, I will be preaching at FBC Colquitt this Sunday. Pray for me and for the church.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Deadliest Catch

I have no idea why, but I love the Discovery Channel's show Deadliest Catch. I don't watch much TV any more anyway, but it's fascinating to me to watch guys who love what they do so much (or the lure of fast money) they would put their lives on the lines every season to catch King Crab in the Bering Sea. I actually have NO desire to ever do what these guys do. I've always enjoyed learning new things so maybe that is it. This video is a little something about how waves are formed at sea ... through the eyes of some of the craziest or bravest guys I know on TV.

This post won't be the favorite of many of you, but some will enjoy this video. And some? ... Well, you will become a fan just like me :-).