Church Membership is More Than Showing Up on Sundays

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:9

I was 14-years old when I joined a Southern Baptist church in the town I grew up in. There wasn’t much to it. I walked down an aisle when the invitation was opened up to the church and I told the pastor I wanted to become a member. It was a few months after it pleased God to reveal His Son to me and I was born-again. I was baptized and became a member of that church. I didn’t know what church membership was. I just knew that the last time I was asked to join a church I wasn’t a Christian.

 

My First Encounter with Elders

My father was an elder at another church in Pottsville. There were three churches within a rocks throw distance. When my family moved to Pottsville we went to the Associate Reformed Presbyterian church. I stayed there until the youth got too small for my liking. So in ninth grade I started attending church at the Southern Baptist church on Wednesdays and I went with my family to the ARP church on Sunday mornings. I wanted to be around my peers. When I was 12 years old the pastor at the ARP church came to my home and asked me if I wanted to become a church member. I knew I wasn’t a believer. It didn’t matter if it pleased my parents or not I didn’t want to commit to something that I wasn’t familiar with. After joining the Southern Baptist church I didn’t know what my responsibilities were. All I knew was what I remember my dad telling me, but it was from the ARP perspective. In the ARP church, at least this ARP church, membership was taken seriously. People who wanted to join the church had to go before the elders of the church. These were men who the church appointed to oversee the congregation. The people who were interested in church membership had to answer questions that gave the elders understanding of where this person stood in the faith. If they were professing believers and the elders believed they saw genuine faith in these people then they were given the right to join the church. If not then the process was extended. The elders also made sure if the people were in good standing with the churches they were coming from.

Front Door Back Door Policy

In the Southern Baptist church that I first joined didn’t have a plurality of elders. They didn’t have someone that made sure I was a genuine believer, and it was easy to become a member. Mark Dever in his book, “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church” talks about how most churches have a open front door, closed back door policy. He explains that churches who have open front doors let anyone in without checking to see if they are in good standing with the church they are coming from or if they are even born-again believers. Churches who tend to be liberal with welcoming just anyone in treat church membership with recklessness and not reverence. These same churches who have a wide-open front door also have a closed back door. This means that these churches who let just anyone in have a hard time seeing people out. Usually this means that this church probably doesn’t practice church discipline for the sake of “unity.” It is a shame that churches who say they are striving for a biblical church dismiss practicing healthy church discipline. Using the excuse that they avoid practicing church discipline in the name of the loving, forgiving Jesus is a cop-out. It is far cry from the Bible to say that church discipline is unloving and something Jesus wouldn’t do. (Matthew 18) I was an ignorant church member for too many years. However I went to the business meetings when the other youth “church members” was outside playing. In my pride I got to practice something I didn’t realize was so vital to being a healthy church member. As I look back on those 8 years of being a church member there are so many things that I realize now that I didn’t fully understand as a “church member” then. I am not sure if I would consider that 14-year old as a true church member.

A Look into the Window of Unhealthy Churches Practicing Unhealthy Church Membership

Churches who do not teach the congregation what healthy church membership looks like should get rid of church membership altogether. What is the point of church membership if your “church members” do not understand their responsibilities to the church? When I would show up for the business meeting that took place once a month on Wednesday night, I noticed something unusual. It was a trend that was unsettling in my heart even to this day. Out of the 120 people that came on Sunday mornings only 20% showed up on Sunday nights or Wednesday nights. This 20 %, if that many, made the decisions for the entire Body. If something needed to be voted on they were the ones that could vote. At the time and to this day I believe this 20 % were healthy church members. They were faithful to the core. They loved the Lord and displayed it through their lives. Now there were some who couldn’t make it and that is understandable. However, excuses were fleeting for those who wanted to check in on Sunday mornings and check out the rest of the week. Healthy Church membership is about being active. What does being active mean? It means that these church members are not neglecting corporately worshipping with other fellow believers. (Hebrews 10:24-25) These members care about the business of the church and take on the ministry as a whole not something that is just designated to the church leaders. Being an active member is about having family worship in the home, evangelizing those in your workplaces, and growing in your understanding of who God is according to His Word. Inactive church members who do not show up to church on Sundays regularly and who do not practice healthy church membership should be held accountable. Too often it is easy in churches today for people who profess to be Christians to disobey Gods command to worship with a body of believers. Two things can happen to those who profess to believe. They can forsake the church or they are not held accountable by their church. They will get caught up in heinous and habitual sin. Therefore it will be plain to all that they “went out from us because they were not of us.” (1 John 2:19) And that church who was their “church” will be held accountable by God. Such churches who neglect church membership and who do not hold people in their church accountable to the teachings of Christ should examine their theology. Also, these people who are inactive “members” do not need to receive support from the church. Only those who the church has recognized as genuine believers ought to receive support from the church. This starts with guarding the church doors. Has your church appointed biblically qualified leaders to watch over the sheep? (Acts 20:28-30) If not unhealthy habits are sure to form. A church that is not holding their church members accountable might as well hold the church’s neck in the Wolf’s mouth. It’s disturbing how church’s want to see growth, but neglect discipleship of their members. In some cases it is just these churches don’t know how or what discipleship is. Then these churches will turn to external resources to help them, and forsake the Bible which is sufficient and accessible.

Why is all the stress of church ministry placed on the pastor?

Either because that pastor is choosing to overwork himself or church members have a poor understanding of church membership or both. Now the pastor is supposed to be a laborer among laborers. In the SBC churches, I’ve had ties to I have noticed that the issue of the common pastoral burnout usually fell on both the pastor and the member. This is frightening because the few church members who do show up to business meetings who have the control of the churches decisions place the blame on the pastor rather than looking within to see the problem is a lack of leadership as well as a lack of discipleship which is the responsibility of the Christian church member. In most SBC churches that I’ve been to or have learned from conversation with fellow SBC believers. I have noticed that the term “burnout” is just as much the pastors fault as the church members. If we want to see more healthy SBC churches we will point our pastors to their biblical duties as the shepherd/shepherds of the church. And we will point our church members to their biblical responsibilities in the church. When we see pastors spending more time studying the Word of God and praying we will see more healthy churches. When we make the distinction between church members and church goers we will see more regenerate church members who are know they are to be held responsible by the gracious overseers of the church. (1 Timothy and Titus instruction for elders)

Church Membership Needs Revitalized

It’s easy to hop from church to church. It’s hard to stick with a church through the thick and thin. However God has instructed every Christian to be covenanted to a local church. He has designed it for the Christian and we must not neglect what He has designed for us. In the church today church membership is underrated. In some churches it doesn’t exist because the view of church membership may have been poorly demonstrated. But when we read Gods word I believe we would see what biblical church membership is. Today church planting is the coolest thing to do. Also because it is pretty easy to do in some sense. However church revitalization which is to guide a church back to health is strenuous and hard work. It is like bringing an unfruitful garden back to producing an abundance of fruits and vegetables. The same is for church membership. It is easy to do away with it. It is also easy to not really give much worry to what it means. But being apathetic and negligent isn’t helpful for the church. When we study to learn biblical church membership then we will be able to properly teach our believers the importance of church membership. We need to emphasize the role of the church member. It is not a elementary role in the church. God has given church members the keys and He has designated elders/overseers to lead the church. If we believe that the congregation has the final say then we ought to have a sound understanding of our responsibilities as church members.

*a note of clarity: I believe that those who are in the military, elderly shut ins or anyone who may work which would prevent them from coming regularly are to be supported as the elders and congregation sees fit. Also the purpose of church discipline is restoration of the individual not condemnation. (Romans 8:1)

 

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What if your church stopped singing songs you knew?

 

My wife and I went to Kansas City, MO this past week to tour Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. We stayed with our cousins (Disheroons) Saturday night and then left around 7 a.m. Sunday morning for church. I started online classes through MBTS in the Fall of 2015. In the summer of 2015 Callie and I got married and within the first few months of our marriage I started searching for healthy churches in the Kansas City area. So I browsed the 9marks church search site and came across Liberty Baptist Church. Along with some other notable churches, I tucked my KC church list away in a file to open up when it came time to start looking for churches.

Callie and I arrived at Liberty Baptist Church ten minutes before the service started. For the first time in our marriage we never stepped into a church on our own. Usually we’d visit churches with family or friends. As I was driving into Kansas City traffic my heart started beating faster like when you are about to give a 30 minute speech in front of your 100+ classmates. I was nervous about worshipping with believers that I’ve never met. We turned onto Birmingham road and there set the 40 year old looking brick church. The church that house believers that one day we could call our church family.

I put the car into park, grabbed my Bible, gave a nervous smile to Callie and we began to walk up the hill to the church doors. We were welcomed by the assigned church greeters. I nervously looked every one of the greeters in the eye with a diagonal smirk. As we walked through the sanctuary doors I scanned the place like a CIA agent getting a feel of his surroundings. Callie and I took our seats in the soft connected chair pew, we took the first two seats near the aisle. Aisle seats are the best especially if you want to be the church pew gatekeeper. There was an older lady on our row who took the wall aisle seat. No one else bothered to fill up the other 9 or so seats between us and the older lady. When Callie went to the restroom the teaching pastor greeted all the faces that he may not have recognized row by row. He came to my row. I was frantic. Well for one there was a flowery notebook with a girly phone case sitting next to me. I didn’t want him to think they were mine. After the manly affirmative handshake we chatted before Callie came back. I was relieved of maintaining my man card duties. We talked briefly before we told him we were visiting from Arkansas and he directed us to another Arkansan, Lucas the drummer. We talked to Lucas until worship service started.

As the singing and praise part of the worship service started I began to realize I knew only half of the songs that were being sung. However I didn’t hesitate to continue singing because I didn’t have a good reason not to sing. What is a good reason not to lift up your voice belting doctrinal truths to the Lord who established them? Why would we neglect professing these truths together as a fellowship of believers? Because we aren’t familiar with the tune? Or the songs are not played on KLOVE therefore our tongues are unable to sing strange lyrics?

The worship pastor/elder introduced a new song which was about the Holy Spirit and the Trinity. Usually I would wait until he sang the first verse that way I could catch on to the tune, but I didn’t. The content of the song was greater than the tune that we feel like we need to follow in order to properly worship. God is not concerned if we cannot stay on beat or sing words out of order. I realized that God isn’t going to denounce my worship if I don’t know the song. My duty as a church member and a guest of a church, is to trust the worship pastor to have organized worship that is lyrically and compositionally acceptable for corporate Christian worship. Too often Christians find themselves in a ruckus if the lyrics on the screen or the beat of the song is strange or the song is out of date. In Gods kingdom, songs will be millions of years old, yet we will praise Him the way He desires. I am not against giving a modern tune to an ancient hymn. I am pro-modern worship as long as it considers the Word of God before all else as it is being composed.

What if your church stopped singing songs you knew? What if your worship pastor packed up and left. And the new guy who takes over starts to introduce songs that may be biblical in content, but may not have a catchy tune or familiar sound. Would you pack up and leave to scout out a church that plays all the greatest, latest, positive and encouraging songs? Or would you understand that theology compliments doxology. Our greatest need as the Jesus worshipper is to sing songs that use Gods Words to us that we revert back to Him in praise. May we never be stingy about the songs we sing to our Lord. Also my hope for you as a church member is that you and I would be patient with the worship pastor as he chooses songs that best leads us to exalt Christ and edify the worshipper. This Sunday trust that the worship pastor is seeking to honor God in the songs he chooses to lead the congregation because in this he does have your best interests in mind. When your church starts singing songs that don’t sound familiar. Take time to examine the lyrics, and be patient while you learn the songs. The Spirit doesn’t stop moving because the songs are unfamiliar or unpopular.

 

So you think your job in seminary is pointless

I worked at a factory where I would run a machine that packages panty hose. And I remember that I didn’t like telling anyone what I did for a living. I graduated from college with a bachelors degree in journalism. I wanted to be a news writer. That never happened. My plans after college was to go to seminary. Then I met a young girl who I wanted to marry. I couldn’t find a writing job, so I had to pick the next best thing. I went after the first job that was offered to me. There are days that I wanted to quit, but God has used this job to provide for my wife and I. This job allows me to have time in the evenings to work on class work. I work during the day which makes me available to meet up with others to disciple. Since December I have been on working 6 days a week which have discouraged me. But O all the more reason to be thankful for another 8 hours to share the gospel.

Next month marks the 2 year anniversary since I started working at HanesBrandsInc. This job has had its ups and downs. I have had the opportunity to share the gospel with a hand full of people. I haven’t seen much fruit. However, I have seen men and women working away from sin and relying solely on Jesus. There are a variety of people that come from a church background. However, these people avoid the church due to being “hurt” by the church or concluding that the Bible isn’t the truth. I have heard things like “the Bible is 2000 years old how can we trust it?” or “I am a Christian, but I also believe that I don’t have to go to church.” There are a lot of misguided people where I work. But God has led me to this job for His good purposes.

If I claim to believe that God is sovereign I cannot discount the fact that He is sovereign over leading me to this out of the ordinary job. I cringe every time I am asked about what I do. I usually just quickly tell them I am taking seminary classes and I am moving on campus in a couple of months. It helps me, but I shouldn’t be ashamed of God who establishes my steps and directs my paths.

Awhile back I was able to meet up with a guy who graduated from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. God used this guy to encourage me. We discussed how God gives us jobs during seminary for our good and not to frustrate us. God had led him to a job to minister to Korean immigrants who owned a donut shop. God will take us even when we think we know how to lay out our own life and flips it. He does this to show us that we need to fully depend on Him and trust in His goodness in our jobs.

Like God uses our marriages, and friendships; God uses our jobs to sanctify us. These are opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I have thought hard on why God has me at this job and how I need to be focused these last months I am working here. Too often we neglect being obedient where God has placed us because we are focused on where we want God to place us. Everyday I am seeing the Lord help me in my contentment. He is using this job to show me that even factory workers need the Gospel too. Whatever job God leads us to in the future no matter how unglamorous it may seem, it is never pointless.

Death and Life

The Bible teaches that death is real and that the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) Death is the result of the fall of man that we inherited from the First Adam. According to Romans 5, “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sinand so death spread to all men.” Sin has plagued the world and the consequence of sin is a limited years of life on earth for all men. Everyone that has been born will die.

Death in the Old Testament was a physical form of judgment that God caused on certain people and nations. The Israelites were constantly rebuked by God and sometimes death was the righteous punishment by God. He alone is in control of life and death. (1 Samuel 2:6) Man does not know the day of his death, but he knows that he will die. (Genesis 27:2) God through His word reveals the reality of death. Pastor and author R. Kent Hughes notes  in his book The Pastors Book that “Death is the enemy, but also an evangelist.” Since God is sovereign over death, that can only mean that He offers a hopeful alternative, life. He is life. For the righteous, death is an open door to eternal life. It is “gain” as the Apostle exclaims in Philippians. Also death for the righteous man is better than his birth. (Ecclesiastes 7:1)

The comforting hope for the Christian is that our death is “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones.” (Psalms 116:15) Death is not final for the Christian nor is it for the unbeliever. The believer who has been called by God and who has repented and believed that Jesus is Lord and Savior then they are declared righteous by God because of Christ. The unbeliever who has not repented and believed in the only name that can save them from eternal death or the second death is separation from God and thrown into Hell. Therefore the reality of death should motivate the Christian to be intentional with the Gospel. It is important for us to see every opportunity that God lines us up with an unbeliever is an opportunity to share the Gospel that reconciles the unbeliever to God if they repent and believe. (Isaiah 25:8)

Christ has one bride, the local church

The Church is made of regenerate, born-again believers who are saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. In the midst of a confused Christian culture the church has been misrepresented grossly. It is not the outsiders fault that they have a bad definition of what the church is. The church needs to look within to see where it went wrong and reform from there. When I was in high school I was drawn by the grace of God and it pleased Him to reveal His Son to me. From there I have been seeking to know more about Him which has driven me to love Him better and better. This is why I write about the local church.

I grew up assuming a lot of wrong things about how the church should operate without considering the Word of God. I was so caught up in trusting man that I failed to consult the sufficient Word of God. Just like myself, many are never taught and default to going on with how the church does things, even if it is contrary to the Bible. The Bible is the book for me and it is the book for the Christian who desires to know about the church. God has been gracious to me on this adventure to know His church and know my responsibilities as a Christian.

As I grew up in the church in high school my family doctor also became my Sunday school teacher. Dr. Barber taught me what discipleship looked like. He guided me through understanding how to develop a proper understanding of who God is according to His word. He taught me why I was a Southern Baptist. And he taught me church history. We went through the book of 1 Peter together. He invited me into his home to have dinner and it was there that I was able to watch him be a father and a husband. It amazed me what the Lord had led me to. I was able to watch this man live out his faith. He not only taught me good theology, but he practiced it! Though he moved to Tennessee with his family, he taught me so much about the church, theology, and being a devoted dad and husband.

After he left I began getting more involved in the Wesley Foundation during college. I actually got involved in a few campus ministries like the Baptist Collegiate Ministry and Campus Crusade. I also went to my church’s Bible study, and also went to another church’s college Bible study. I was wearing myself thin. I thought getting involved in a dozen Bible studies would increase my spiritual growth, but it did the opposite.

I was excited to be involved in campus ministry. There were students there my age, they were Christians, and they wanted to be my friend. The campus ministries were awesome! They had fun events, free food, and wanted me to be apart of their ministry. I mean my church wasn’t offering much. I was a college student. I wasn’t young enough to be in an adult Sunday school class, and I was too old to be in youth group. I felt like I didn’t fit in at all. Now my church did switch things around to offer a class that catered to my age, but in my young, naive college kid mind the campus ministry met all my needs. If I can recall correctly, every night of the week I was involved in some type of campus ministry program. I went to three worship services, a couple of Bible studies, and one event nearly every week. At the time it seemed like being involved in campus ministry was enough. Therefore, I did what any college Christian student think’s best. I used my Saturday nights to stay up super late because I didn’t need to go to church in the morning. I had campus ministries I could depend on. That was my local church. I mean I worshipped, I heard someone talk about God, and I was told to give some dollars to the ministry I was at. It worked! This is what college students coming from hard families who force their kids to go to church dream about! And sadly I took part in this idea for a semester. Then I woke up. I sought friends in my life who were attached to a local church in the area. I asked them why they were excited about their church. First of all, it started with a college student Bible study taught by this Middle Eastern guy who owned a stellar restaurant in the town. They were going through book of Hebrews. Whoa! I had only read through the book of the Bible on my own. I had never studied through a book with a group of students. So this group was added to my other time consuming activities on top of a 15-hour class load. I don’t know how I did it all.

Within the year of going to that college Bible study I started to drift from my own church. I was so involved with another campus ministry that I really didn’t have time for the church. Even though I taught the children during the big service at church, I only went to the actual church service maybe twice a month for a semester. I don’t know how I got away with slacking. But I was involved and I was a leader and no one likes to run off free labor.

Going into my final semester at Tech, I was on staff at a college ministry, working with my home church in their children’s ministry, and trying to get more involved in the church where I was attending their college Bible study. Then came when the Lord opened my eyes to committing to one church and one church only. How did I ever miss this? Well it wasn’t emphasized that much that I can recall. The local church was important as long as you were doing something and people were coming. But it was never brought to my attention that the church was ordained as God’s only Bride. Nothing else can replace her. Not a college campus ministry, a para-church ministry, a non-profit ministry, nothing. God has specially designed and ordered the church as His Bride that He laid His life down for. Now people would agree: “Aren’t we the people the church and not the building?” Correct, however, the campus ministry was not ever intended to imitate the Church. It was established as an evangelism center for college campuses. You can find out more about the purpose of para-church ministries here. The spring after I graduated college I was asked to join a group of young men to study about the fundamentals of faith and what are some marks of a healthy church. I wasn’t yet a member, but the elders were kind enough to ask me to join them. A few months before I approached the college guy at CrossLife, Marwan, to help me to decide if I should join CrossLife by transferring my membership from the current church I was serving at. This process took several months, but the Lord showed me through Marwan’s witness that the local church is “a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15) I needed to fully commit myself to one body.

It has been three years since I have been out of college and working my 40+ hours a week while taking a few seminary classes online through Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It is funny that when people ask me “what do you do at your church?” I tell them I try to be a faithful church member. Why? Why don’t I just pay my tithes, say some hellos, and go to my favorite Sunday restaurant on the Lord’s Day after the service? Because the God who saved me set me apart to specifically be sanctified in the church. Before grace, before sin entered the world, before I was created God had in His omnipotent, all-knowing mind that the Christian would need the Church. In Hebrews 10:25 it says not to neglect meeting together as do some. This is a command for us to follow. But why? To encourage each other for the Day that is drawing near. The church is set apart not set aside like a lot of Christians do. There are no church substitutes. There is only the One Bride of Christ. Now you can try to find something that imitates it or you can use the excuse that you are the church; therefore, you can have church at home, on the deer stand, or on the golf course. But that isn’t biblical church, and you may not be a biblical Christian. The Bride of Christ is the church and there is no other.

One last word: if you are a college student and you are struggling with sin and your spiritual growth has come to a halt. Consider your ways, is the campus ministry you are pouring all your hours into each week pulling you away from the church or pointing you to the church?

Every Christian College Student Should Start Their Own Library

It doesn’t matter if you are thinking about heading off to seminary or not. If you are a Christian college student you should be working on your own personal library. I know books can be expensive. Wait a minute. If you go to Christianbooks.com and search for Crossway and click lower price books show first. Then you’ll be like me searching for books and you will find some good deals on some solid literature.

Gods providence and Christian generosity

Now I have been out of college for three years. My wife and I are headed to seminary in about 4-5 months Lord willing. We have a lot of books to take with us. When we got married our library grew significantly. No, out of the hundreds of books I have, I only have read about 30-40% of them. I have started 50% of them. And the rest are to be used when I get to seminary. Over the years God has been gracious to me in throwing people in my way that have been so kind and generous to let me pick some books from their own personal library for myself. God has given us one Book. The Bible that is to be held higher than any other book that comes through our hands. I love the Word of God and my time in it ought to come before my time reading for seminary or casual reading. Being involved in the local church as a church member has grown my affections for wanting to know more about the church, and what the church is for.

The Lord renewed my love for reading

As a high school student after God revealed His Son to me and He became my Lord I didn’t like to read. I like to read when I was in elementary school, and middle school. But when I had to be tested over what I read I was scared. Books became monsters and reading became treacherous work. However God drew me towards Christian non-fiction books my sophomore year in high school. Books like Sword and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson, or The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis gave me a glimpse into how God can use authors to grow my affections for His work. My heart was hungry to know more about this God I had recognized my life was surrendered to. Christianity regenerated my appetite for reading. Then I began to notice how important reading was for other Christians. I remember being given My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers when I was a young boy. I also remember being gifted a book called What He Must Be by Voddie Baucham when I was 12 years old from an elder at the Reformed Presbyterian Church. It blew my mind how important reading was to the Christian. And now something that I once loved that school made me despise was something that as a new born Christian I learned to love again.

You gotta start somewhere

When I started college I had maybe 10 books in my collection. My mother helped me build on it through the amazing bookstore in town called Vintage Books. I loved that bookstore. I bet I bought over 50 books from Mrs. Lynn Wiman. She was the one who gave me my first devotional. You know the Oswald Chambers one? I am so grateful for all the people God placed in my life to build my collection of solid reads over the years. By His grace I was offered a job at the Heart& Soul Bookstore in my sophomore year of college. There I learned how to find good Christian books. I developed my own method for finding solid books. I write about that here. Finding healthy resources was important to me and I had to pass this on to my friends. Vintage Books and Heart& Soul were places I directed my friends to. Now there are websites like Westminister Theological Seminary  that give rock solid books for a great price. Also you can go to Amazon and find used books. You really don’t have a good excuse if the money is low. Often I try to lend books out. In my lifetime I have given out 10-20 books. I only got maybe 5 back, but I am okay with that. What young college students need more than anything today is to have healthy Christian books on their bookshelves or their nightstand. There is a ministry called Founders Ministries who published an article on the importance of churches having what they call a “book table.” They write about the importance of a book table here. This morning at church our pastor announced before the church like he does monthly directing our congregation to the table that our members setup each Sunday that has books that we lend out. It is based on an honor system and I have known a few college students who are utilizing that table right now. My dad when visiting, has borrowed a book that helped him with teaching the kids at his church. I am glad to see this at our church.

Be a theologian in whatever field the Lord takes you

My challenge to college students is this. No matter if you are going into the engineering field, business field, nursing, or parks and recreation you need solid, nourishing, books within  your reach. The easiest reach is the one where you don’t have to reach that far. Meaning your own library that is in your own apartment, home, or dorm. The church should come alongside and help you with this if you are having a difficult time finding the right books. In the later years after reading and jotting down notes in these books I hope your son or daughter will be passed down these books and they’ll see your hard work in becoming more and more like Christ. Of course I hope they open your Bible up and see the long term affects of plowing and the digging in it. Books may not last forever, but if the author is pointing you to Christ and helping you point others to Christ then that should cause eternal impact for you and others God places in your life. Build your library, and glorify God while you are building.

No, not just any church will do. 

As I sit down reflecting on the Lords good work at our church amongst our college students and young and married couples I see His orchestrating is better than mine. It has been almost a year since they have moved off to cities like Little Rock, Louisville, and Fayetteville. And to countries like Kosovo and Canada. The church that use to be their church has now been taken over by another church. And I am thankful for that! It matters whether or not they find a church or not. Before jobs, before houses, or before families. I cared a lot about whether or not our students and my friends would land in a healthy church. They were equipped well by our church. I am thankful that today I can testify that the majority of our former church members are settled in healthy, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled, biblically instructed churches. It matters to us as their church body and it hopefully matters to them that they land in another healthy church. This is one of the biggest roles the local church plays in the life of any Christian that comes into covenant with them.

This evening I had the chance to talk with the River Valley Associational Missionary, Danny Green. We discussed about the vital role the local church plays in the Christians life. We both shared how the local church has impacted us and how he is seeking to equip the local church with resources to teach the things that Christ has commanded us to teach His disciples. We also discussed the importance of directing men and women who we have Gospel conversations with, to healthy churches. Now not all healthy churches are Southern Baptist and not all Southern Baptist churches are healthy churches. But I do believe that if we cling to the Baptist Faith & Message as being the closest doctrinal statement to the infallible, inerrant, and sufficient Word. Then we ought to be sending people to churches that are like minded.

Going into to college I was apart of several different church bodies. I was a church member at Pottsville First Baptist, youth leader at Danville First Baptist, and helped the after-school program for school age students at Pottsville United Methodist. Looking back I see what the Lord was doing in me. He was helping me understand he importance of being connected to one body of believers and to devote myself to Him by serving the one church. By the time I was in my sophomore year of college I started to attend Crosslife’s college group. It wasn’t necessarily a college ministry because Crosslife believes that college students are as much apart of the fellowship as those who are not in college. However I wasn’t aware and I hopped from Pottsville FBC on Sunday mornings to Crosslife on Sunday nights. In the believers life strains and pains will develop when you attach yourself to a lot of churches. Soon you’ll find yourself taking in and not serving out. I was involved in a campus ministry, we to Crosslife college, and went to my home church in Pottsville. I saw my faith start to drag. I was learning and hearing the Word preached but I felt the strain of being involved in too many ministries and being spread too thin. I was deceived by my own busyness thinking I was growing. I was running the race of faith on a treadmill going fast and getting nowhere. It showed in how I fought sin. It showed up in how I counseled students.it showed in my passion for the Word of God. I had to do something. So I prayed. “God please show me what to do. Where to go. What church lines up with my understanding of the church in the New Testamnet” So He pointed me to His word. I started reading, I started paying attention and observing all that He was doing.  I started noticing that the New Testament instructed church looked a lot different than the churches I had been to before. Altar calls were not found. Deacons ruling over the elders was not in any of the pastoral epistles. Church membership through coming forward wasn’t found either. Doors were closed here. And doors opened there. In March of 2013 I joined Crosslife. The immediate thing that struck me about this church was that when I met up with the teaching elder he presented me with the church’s statement of faith and said look over it and tell me what you think. It was weird. Why wouldn’t he tell me that he preached rad sermons, or his church met in a cool location or I got free food every first Sunday. Why didn’t he lead off with those gimmicks? Because doctrinal statements that are biblical keep faithful church members. 

I started out in an unpaid internship where we studied what a healthy church is according to Scripture. Slowly things that I was taught as a young believer began to shatter when held up to the Bible. I soon learned from Gods word and a study of the book 9marks of a Healthy church that God has instructions in the New Testament for the church. This book showed me  where you encouraged people to attend church matters. It wasn’t about a church that fits you, a church that was easiest to get to proximity wise, a church that your family goes to, or a church that uses Christian jargon. But it does matter what church you point people to. But why? Below I will give three points of why you should be aware of what a healthy church looks like.  And how reckless suggestions hurt people more than it does help.

1.) It matters because some churches today do not operate according the Word of God. Telling someone to just go to any church is dangerous. There are numerous churches that put up the Jesus banner but their view of Him is far from the historical or biblical view of Jesus Christ. Church members need to be knowledgeable about other denominations and “churches.” Usually a Christian that is wanting at best to do just enough to be a Christian will find themselves in a church that does just enough to be a Christian church. These types of churches we must help others steer clear of. 

2.) It matters because some churches are not churches. Christians today do not seem like they care about what church they attend. So if they have “church”tacked on the end of their name they must be a church. But would you eat a burger that a stranger has given you because it looks like a hamburger. It may not be cooked all the way. Or it may have ghost pepper sauce on it. Or it may not even be beef. Would you eat it without doing some research beforehand? Finding a local church is vital for your sanctification. Why not research a churches doctrine and beliefs before you join it? 

3.) It matters because our sanctification is about surrounding ourselves with believers who are mandated by the Bible to help us grow according to the Bible. Healthy Christians desire to seek out healthy churches. If you are struggling with your salvation, a church that is all about love and no doctrine will confuse you. A church that is all about doctrine and not about love may cause you to doubt. But a church that both loves and is deep rooted in biblical doctrine can help you become more like Christ as God guides you by His Holy Spirit. 

These are not all the points of why you should seek out a healthy church or why it matters what church you point people to. Later on I will give a more in depth look at the importance of the local church and Gods purpose for it in the Christians life. No matter what age you are the local church should be an essential part of your life.