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Archive for the The Church Category


Nov 4

A Primer on Church Discipline

2010 | by Trent Hunter | Category: The Church

At our last Lord’s Supper gathering, Ryan preached on the subject of church discipline in his sermon, “A Redemptive Judgment.” In a sentence, church discipline is that loving process whereby God, through his people, addresses us in our sin for our restoration to him, to his people and for his glory. Matthew 18:15-20 is the most specifically descriptive Scriptural text regarding church discipline, outlining a process of restoration that begins with personal confrontation and ends with removal from the church, if there is no repentance across a careful process involving the whole church. Along with preaching and the sacraments (Lord’s Supper and Baptism), this commitment to accountability and reservation is an historic and certainly biblical mark of the church.

9Marks ministries has done a good job of promoting, explaining, and defending this important practice for God’s people. Jonathan Leeman has written a helpful introduction to the subject, entitled, “A Church Discipline Primer.” Here’s his introduction:

What would you think of a coach who instructs his players but never drills them? Or a math teacher who explains the lesson but never corrects her students’ mistakes? Or a doctor who talks about health but ignores cancer?

You would probably say that all of them are doing half their job. Athletic training requires instructing and drilling. Teaching requires explaining and correcting. Doctoring requires encouraging health and fighting disease. Right?

Okay, what would you think about a church that teaches and disciples but doesn’t practice church discipline? Does that make sense to you? I assume it makes sense to many churches, because every church teaches and disciples, but so few practice church discipline. The problem is, making disciples without discipline makes as much sense as a doctor who ignores tumors.

I understand the reluctance to practice church discipline. It’s a difficult matter for any number of reasons. Still, this reluctance to practice church discipline, a reluctance that many of us probably feel, may suggest that we believe ourselves to be wiser and more loving than God. God, after all, “disciplines those he loves”; and “he punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (Heb. 12:6). Do we know better than God?

God disciplines his children for the sake of their life, growth, and health: God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness” (Heb. 12:10). Yes, it’s painful, but it pays off: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11). A harvest of righteousness and peace! That’s a beautiful picture.

Church discipline ultimately leads to church growth, just as pruning a rose bush leads to more roses. Said another way, church discipline is one aspect of Christian discipleship. Notice that the words “disciple” and “discipline” are etymological cousins. Both words are taken from the realm of education, which involves teaching andcorrection. Not surprisingly, there’s a centuries-old practice of referring to “formative discipline” and “corrective discipline.”

My goal in this primer is to introduce the reader to the basics of corrective church discipline—the “what,” the “when,” the “how,” and a few more words on the “why.”

Read the whole article here (and note that the article is two pages).

Oct 13

What is the Mission of the Church?

2010 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Recommended Link,The Church

That’s an important question. We’re called to do many things, but what is the one thing that informs and makes sense of every other thing we’re called to as Christians and as the church?

Yesterday, Kevin DeYoung posted an article written by Ryan Kelly about the word, “Missional.” In this post, Ryan follows up on his recent round table discussion with pastors Greg Gilbert and Kevin DeYoung on the subject of the mission of the church. Ryan argues for the centrality of gospel proclamation if all of the Church’s doing and helps clarify the relationship between showing mercy in tangible ways and sharing about Mercy in Jesus Christ, between offering help in this life and telling persons about the only Help for life eternal.

Ryan offers three suggestions to help inform the ongoing conversation concerning “the vocabulary and content of the church’s mission.” I’ll paste them here, along with highlights from each explanation. However, don’t waste your time reading it here – go to Kevin’s blog and read the entire article.

1) Insisting on a definition of missional or asking for specifics of one’s view of the mission is not curmudgeon fundamentalism—it’s still needed.

…There are a few take-aways here. 1) Those skeptical of the term missional should give the benefit of doubt about another’s definition until there’s reason to be concerned. The term itself has no necessary bearing on gospel fidelity. 2) Conversely, those who identify themselves with the term missional should be gracious and eager to clarify when another asks him what that word means. I’ve seen too many young pastors get bent out of shape simply for being asked what missional means to them. That’s silly. 3) We should all strive to avoid repetitive empty vocabulary, and instead make pains to be clear about what we think the church should be doing. Again, this is a good discussion if we navigate it openly and graciously.

2) Especially we younger evangelicals have to give a more sober and careful hearing to our fathers in ministry when they warn us with historical examples of when the church’s deeds eclipsed, or became, her gospel.

….Read Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism every five years. Read the work of George Marsden, especially Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism, which chronicles the missteps of both fundamentalism and left-wing evangelicalism in the last century. Surely we don’t think our generation or our camp is so sharp, so vigilant that we are above repeating such mistakes. So perhaps we young, mission-impassioned, ambitious types need to do a little less eye-rolling and a little more prayerful listening when others—especially those more historically astute and/or experienced—seem more cautious and suggest more careful nuance about the relationship between deeds and gospel.

3) Partly influenced by the need to protect the gospel, but mostly based on the Bible itself, it seems to me that there is warrant for prioritizing gospel proclamation over other important commands Jesus gives his followers.

  • While Jesus healed and fed, the gospel accounts culminate with the disciples’ commission to proclaim and make disciples. This doesn’t mean that this is all they are to do, but “famous last words” do seem particularly noteworthy, especially when they are quadruply given.
  • The book of Acts not only begins with another such commission (1:8), but continues with dozens of preaching/conversion stories to makeup a rather overwhelmingly consistent theme.
  • Paul insists that the facts of the gospel weekend—Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection—are of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). Those who want to have social and cultural issues right alongside the gospel have to provide a satisfying explanation of what Paul meant here if he didn’t see any priority. I, personally, haven’t heard one yet.
  • The word “gospel” implies that there’s a message—a message which must be proclaimed. As Carson recently wrote: “…the very nature of announcing or proclaiming (good) news—whether ευαγγελιζω or kηρύσσω—is that words are the primary medium. What we might call the logocentrism of Scripture is massively reinforced by the nature of the gospel itself: it is news, good news, to be proclaimed.”
  • There are some very good NT scholars who have written on the mission of the church and have rather consistently put the emphasis of the church’s mission on its proclamation (e.g., KostenbergerO’BrienPlummer). As I’ve already noted, this seems to be a growing consensus among some of the most prominent missionalleaders as well.
  • Most agree that good deeds are, in part, validation of the gospel message to unbelievers. But by nature this sets up some kind of priority: the validation of a thing cannot be greater than or completely on par with the thing itself.

Again, visit Kevin’s site for the whole article.

Oct 5

DeYoung, Gilbert, and Kelly on the Mission of the Church

2010 | by Trent Hunter | Category: The Church

Kevin DeYoung, Greg Gilbert, and Ryan Kelly were recently featured on The Gospel Coalition blog discussing the mission of the church. In this round table discussion, they work to clarify the relationship of the gospel message to deeds of mercy.

In a recent message, “Summarizing Luke: The Man, The Message, The Mission,” Ryan addressed the question of the church’s mission at greater length.

May 24

Obedience: The Hard but Right Path

2010 | by Parker Landis | Category: Recommended Link,The Church

Kevin DeYoung has a great blog post about the not-so-glorious task of being a faithful church member versus choosing the more en vogue, but less biblical path of setting out on your own and seeking to change the world through radical action.  Here’s the first paragraph:

It’s sexy among young people — my generation — to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church. Besides being unbiblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.

Read the rest here.

Apr 19

Confession: Killing Sin and Creating Fellowship

2010 | by Parker Landis | Category: Books,Gospel,Quote,Sermon Follow-Up,The Church

Yesterday, Zach preached on John 3:19-21 about the need for Christians to “come into the light” by confessing their sins to each other.  The following quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s, Life Together powerfully illustrate the importance of confession in breaking the power of sin and creating real fellowship among believers.  The final chapter, from which the quotes below are excerpted, is worth the price of the book alone.

He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, not withstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners! (p. 110)

In confession a man breaks through to certainty.  Why is it that it is often easier for us to confess our sins to God than to a brother? God is holy and sinless, He is a just judge of evil and the enemy of all disobedience.  But a brother is sinful as we are.  He knows from his own experience the dark night of secret sin.  Why should we not find it easier to go to a brother than to the holy God? We must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with our confession of sin to God, whether we have not rather been confessing our sins to ourselves and also granting ourselves absolution. And is not the reason perhaps for our countless relapses and the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living on self-forgiveness and not a real forgiveness?  Self-forgiveness can never lead to a breach with sin.

Who can give us the certainty that, in the confession and forgiveness of our sins, we are not dealing with ourselves, but with the living God?  God gives us this certainty through our brother.  Our brother breaks the circle of self-deception.  A man who confesses his sin in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.  But since the sin must come to light some time, it is better that it happens today between me and my brother, rather than on the last day in the piercing light of the final judgment. It is a mercy that we can confess our sins  to a brother. Such grace spares us the terrors of the last judgment. (pp. 115-16)

In confession the break-through to community takes place.  Sin demands to have a man by himself.  It withdraws him from the community.  The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.  Sin wants to remain unknown.  It shuns the light.  In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person.  This can happen even in the midst of a pious community…

The expressed, acknowledged sin has lost all its power. It has been revealed and judged as sin. It can no longer tear the fellowship asunder.  Now the fellowship bears the sin of the brother.  He is no longer alone with his evil for he has cast off his sin in confession and handed it over to God… Now he stands in the fellowship of sinners who live by the grace of God in the cross of Jesus Christ. (pp. 112-13)