Friday, February 24, 2006

The Buck Stops With the Local Church ...

Today's obviously the day for audio clips ... I found this link to part of Al Mohler's radio show. He invited a call from a gentleman who has obviously had an unfortunate experience with the local church and was seeking to justify independence from the Word of God. Mohler sets a great example by graciously, humerously but firmly setting the record straight - despite ALL the bad experiences we may have had in the church, we simply can't get away from it. The church is where it's at!


Anonymous said...

Its Sheila again...Tennessee, USA. I'm still following and enjoying your blog. I wrote at length a couple of weeks ago, only to never see it post. (technologically challenged? I'd say I am.)

I've enjoyed the comments on singleness vs. being married. While I am certain that the loneliness of singleness is only ONE aspect that makes it the more sacrificial lifestyle, I have to say that neither being single or being married is a prerequisite to serving the Lord faithfully. (And I know you'd all agree...) Yes, I am married! 20 years this November. I'm married to my best friend and my pastor. ;-)

Here is where I'm going. Interestingly, just a few weeks ago, my pastor-husband and I were discussing the 5-fold ministries...a topic we are rabidly passionate about. He pointed out to me how that the ministry of the pastor/teacher is the *only* one of the 5 fold ministries with stringent, practical qualifications. ("husband of one wife, rule his household well, have a good reputation inside and outside the church, etc.") These are also the same qualifications for the elder and the deacon.

Sure, it is always good when ANY of the 5-fold ministries (and any Christian!) meets these qualifications, but they are mandatory (m-a-n-d-a-t-o-r-y) for the pastor teacher...which brings up the obviously married status of the man, and the *amazing* thing it would have been in those days to rule a household well. That was a far greater task in New Testament times, as the "household" consisted of many, many members, usually a business of some sort, and no business or government structures such as social security or retirement were in place.

(That is not to say that a single man cannot serve in the pastor-teacher capacity...but chances are, though not 100%, they are very high, *that* man will one day marry.)

Why? Why the practical (yet intensely spiritual) mandatory, stringent qualifications? For the simple reason that these are most often NOT highly mobile ministries. These are your men who serve in one place for at least a few years. Their lives are observed in a very up close and personal and daily way. (Oh me. My life is a fish bowl.)

The other, more mobile ministries of prophet, evangelist, and apostle do not have "in writing" such qualifications placed upon them. Agreed...much of these qualifications could be implied, but I think it is interesting that the local church ministry...which is for the most part non-transient ministry...for these men a list of qualifications is literally spelled out for them - and the bar is quite high.

For me, personally, raising four Godly children, educating them at home (Govt. schools in my state are horrid), and maintaining a vibrant, God centered, passionate "ministry marriage" (as opposed to not having the extra pressures of ministry) has been excruciatingly difficult at times. I've needed a mighty outpouring of the Holy Ghost, and an occasional wonderful glass of Merlot to pull it off!! It has grown me up as nothing else could have done. But there you have was/is God's recipe for Sheila's growth in grace - not God's recipe for every saint.

But I have also realized, with great surprise and delight, that my marriage and family have been the most powerful tool for evangelism we've ever had/used! We have Muslim friends...redneck friends (do you know that that means? "uneducated")...intellectuals...high powered business men and women...all of them lost and all of them drawn to what they see in my marriage and in our family.

We are not perfect...we are transparent and real almost to a fault. (One man, who since has become a most valuable convert and asset to our local church, personally witnessed *several* fights between my husband and I!) But what Jesus Christ can do in a marriage and a family is nothing short of amazing, and is as big a miracle (these days) as any other miracle a single man in ministry might be a witness to in his context of "burning out for God" so to speak.

OOOooooh, particularly churches in Central/South America...they need such ministry to their marriages and their families! Ideally, it should come from the pastors and elders of the local churches - but THEY are in as bad a shape as anyone else - very unhappy, unfaithful marriages, and fractured families. But that is another topic altogether.

I also loved what you said about pastors one day "moving on". My husband and I are church planters, and Harvest Church is our first "baby". Our first plant. The day will come when we are to move on - making room for other gifted saints to assume leadership roles. But in the meantime - not counting the many missions trips my husband has been on - there is that strong "non transient" element...a life examined more closely, over a long period of time - a life that must be an example to the believers.

Just a long, chatty contribution to the discussion!

And yes, the local church is where its at. Oh, she's the BRIDE! The very passion of His heart! In one sense, I am part of "her". In another sense, I serve "her". I'm thrilled to just be permitted to manicure her fingernails...she is so precious to God.

There is something, indeed, to be said for the local church. It is a high and holy privilege to hold babies, to watch children become grown men and women, and observe a brother in Christ grow old. We're part of this family...part of this "Bride"...for the long haul, Amen? Relationships in the body are the most tedious, sometimes odious, but yet also the most gratifying, soul satisfying, and the most magnificent means of grace in all creation.

You absolutely cannot live out New Testament Christianity without the local church. I need "you" (in the local church) to even know what it is to be kind, to believe the best, and to share my blessings with. Who else am I to be patient with, if not "you" in my local church? How can I minister to the needs of the saints in "the church universal"? How can I imitate the faith of men of God, if my only "brush" with them is in a conference? The local church is God's indispensable means of "fleshing out" obedience. (And OH BOY, do I mean "FLESHING OUT" sometimes!!!) ;-)))

Baxter's Boy said...

Great to hear from you Sheila and thanks for following and taking the time to comment on this site! Once again your comments were excellent, clearly thought out and really encouraging! With no offence intended to the guys who read this, I have PARTICULAR respect for the women - because so often your comments are prophetic in the sense that they hit just "there".

I couldn't agree MORE with your fantastic comments about the qualifications for ministry. This fits in very strongly with something that I have been feeling for a while. I felt a strong call to the ministry shortly after I was baptised in the Holy Spirit. I haven't told many people this, but it actually took the form of a dream! I dreamt that I was walking along a country path with my pastor, a man I highly respect, and I dreamt that I turned to him, gripped his arm and said, "I NEED to preach!". This dream has stuck with me so strongly since! I think back then I always assumed that call to the ministry meant "pastor/teacher".

But since I have grown more and more happy with the idea of being single, I have also realised that I think I would make a TERRIBLE pastor/teacher! And that is when I realise how grateful I am to the Risen and Ascended Christ that, that isn't the only ministry that He gave as a gift to the church - that there are others!! So that is why, Sheila, I too am RABIDLY passionate about the 5-fold Ascension gifts!! My call depends on them!!

And CONGRATULATIONS for 20 years come November!! I am thrilled to have been able to meet a "mobile" pastor and his wife who is exhibit everything that I am passionate about!

May God pour out His richest blessings on you today!!