Daily Archives: November 26, 2012

Megachurches, Multi-Site and the Next 50 Years: Is the Local Church Doomed to Extinction?

The director of Church for Men, “an organization that helps congregations reach more men and boys,” has made a prediction that, by 2062, multi-site churches will dominate the landscape of the visible church and that small churches of 50 to 500 people and led by a local pastor will have all but disappeared. Read more of this post

Dear Jack: A Letter to an Abusive Husband

Dear Jack,

I pray this letter finds you in good health, sound mind, and quiet heart.

I’m writing on behalf of your wife, Jill, the elders, and all your brothers and sisters in the church family. We are all greatly concerned about your abuse and mistreatment of Jill. And I would like to take this opportunity to address you as a pastor, a man, and a father.

As a pastor, I want to loving communicate to you two messages. First, stop abusing Jill. As you know, our church family takes a “zero tolerance” approach to marital abuse. Your hands were not made for battering your wife, but for beautifying her. It’s never permissible under any circumstance for you to raise your hand toward your wife in anger or abuse or in any way other than to caress her in love or help her in strength. Never. Under any circumstance. You must commit to no longer battering Jill, who is made in God’s image, who was purchased by Christ’s blood, and who is your sister in Christ. Continuing to sin against your wife in this way will result in further police involvement (I have already counseled Jill to file a police report) and the church pursuing corrective love. A better result would be a clear and tangible commitment on your part to stop abusing Jill.

Second, get help in learning to love Jill. As a church, we are committed to fighting for every marriage in our congregation. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to help the two of you enjoy a reconciled and fully loving marriage as Christ intends. We’re prepared to do that over the long haul. With Jill, we have taken steps to make a safe place available for her to live. Her safety is our first priority, but it’s not our only priority. We hope also to support you both in experiencing the healing and wholeness Christ provides. So, I’d like to offer you the opportunity to me with me, any elder, or any one of the trained counselors in the church who have from time-to-time helped others through this pattern of sin, anger, and control. If we need additional resources beyond the local church, we’re prepared to locate and provide them. We’ll put everything the church has behind you and Jill if you’ll commit to getting some help. If you’re abusing your wife, brother, you’re not well. You need to locate the root of the difficulty in your own heart and learn to live in the grace and power that God provides. We want to help you do that. Will you allow us?

Can I also say just a couple words as a father of two beautiful daughters? If Jill were my daughter, I’m afraid I’d be writing this letter from my prison to your hospital room. I know: pastors aren’t supposed to say stuff like that. But I can’t think of a better way to communicate how horrible and dark your treatment of Jill has been, and how sudden and violent God’s judgment would be as He looks on Jill, His daughter, and considers your abuse of her. I know my anger would be a pale and sinful picture of God’s. But that’s what’s most frightening: God’s anger would be perfect, just, and omnipotent. I fear that for you just as I fear the welfare of someone who would harm my girls. My girls are 14 and 12. They’re bright, energetic, funny, quick to serve, curious and outgoing. I imagine those are some of the things you’ve admired in Jill. As a father, I want my girls to be with a man who multiplies and nourishes those qualities in my daughters. To do otherwise would be to slowly tread these beautiful creatures under foot, it would be to kill them slowly. The husband who does that is a gardener who tramples his rose bed with heavy work boots. I wouldn’t want such a husband for my daughters, and God doesn’t want that for His.

Finally, I also want to speak to you as a fellow man, a brother in the Lord and fellow traveler in this journey called “manhood.” I find being a man just about the most difficult and high-pressured thing in life. I feel like I’m often one-step behind or one wrong decision from completely ruining everything. It seems to me that a lot of us live with a seething undercurrent of fear and anger. I don’t know if you feel the same way, but no temptation has befallen you that isn’t common to others of us.

But those feelings express themselves in a number of ways: from abdicating responsibility to fleeing the relationship to abusing others. People often take out their frustrations and fears on those closest at hand–for husbands that can be the wife. We have to find a way to be sober, self-controlled, temperate, and respectable. That’s really at the heart of what it means for us to be men.

Let me say something to you that you may fear hearing: As a fellow man, while I can identify with some of the pressure, anger, and frustration you may be feeling, I do not respect your abuse of your wife. The abuse misrepresents Jesus, misrepresents husbands, and misrepresents marriage. In saying I don’t respect your abuse as a man, I’m not trying to discourage you further. I’m trying to bring to light what you must surely be feeling about yourself. How can you respect yourself as a man if you’re resorting to beating the woman that loves you? Surely you can’t. And it’s pretending that you do respect yourself or demanding that others should respect you that will keep you locked in the entangling sins of anger and abuse. The pretending is a heavy blanket of self-deception. So, as a fellow man, I’m offering you a way to admit your struggles to one who shares some of them and to be free from the pretending that keeps us trapped. There’s nothing worse than pretending to be a man that has it all together while feeling inside everything is coming apart. One man to another: here’s a way out. Take it.

Know, Jack, that we stand ready to help you and Jill. We will stand with Jill to keep her safe, connected to the church family, and full of hope for her future with you. We will stand with you to live as the man of God He calls you to be, to repair your marriage, and to be free of the things that have led to this painful time. We serve a God for whom nothing is too hard. Let us walk by faith, obeying His word, and expecting His grace. Please do be in touch right away.

With hope and with Christ,

Pastor T-

http://thegospelcoalition.org/mobile/article/thabitianyabwile/dear-jack-a-letter-to-an-abusive-husband

Violence Against Women and Church Discipline

The United Nations designates yesterday, November 25, as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. A number of friends have written comments on the matter.

How should a church respond to the case of a husband abusing his wife, or man his daughter? Decisively and quickly.

A church should start by helping to remove a woman from a place where she will be harmed. Elders may choose to assist a woman find different accomodations merely if there is a threat of violence. If a woman has actually been assaulted, they should involve the police. Crimes against the body fall within the jurisdiction of the state (Rom. 13:1-7), and Christians can thank God that we live in a time when the state actually takes interest in such matters.

As in other cases of clear and unrepentant sin, abuse can and often should be grounds for excommunication from the church. Rather than simply explain this, I thought it might be helpful to offer a sample of the kind of church discipline letter our church will send. (This particular letter does not refer to an actual situation.) No doubt, a letter like the following presumes that the elders have already been working with the individual, and for one reason or another they determine that the man’s profession of faith is no longer credible by virtue of his actions.

Dear —-,

Greetings on behalf of —— Church.

The purpose of this letter is to inform you that last night, at the church’s members meeting, the assembled congregation formally voted to remove you from the rolls as an act of discipline for violating your marital vows through acts of abuse toward your wife. As you know, the Scriptures call husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25-33), and Christ does not abuse his church. He protects and cherishes it. When a husband instead abuses his wife, he lies horribly about the character of God and the gospel of Christ.

—-, by this letter we want to demonstrate our love for you by warning you of the seriousness of your sin and of your need to repent. We understand that only God can evaluate the human heart, but we must tell you that the decisions you have made are not consistent with how the Bible describes a Christian. Consequently, as a church, we can no longer with confidence call you our brother in Christ.

However, we long to be able to do so! Please know that you are always welcome to attend the services of our church. We would be delighted to have you here, and should you desire to repent, we would love to see you restored to full fellowship with us in the gospel. If there is any way we can help you pursue that repentance, including helping you to discern what repentance would look like, we are only too ready. ——, we love you, and even though it would be easier to do nothing, we hope that our actions will be seen by you as evidence of our love and concern for you, and of our love for the honor of Christ supremely.

May the Lord bless you with a sincere faith, a good conscience and a servant’s heart. Know that we long to welcome you back here.

On behalf of CHBC, I am

——–

http://feeds.9marks.org/~r/9marks/blog/~3/8WTVvjvKj6k/violence-against-women-and-church-discipline

World Health Organization Urges Global Abortion-on-Demand and Disposal of Aborted Babies as ‘Waste’

Christian News Network shares an unsettling story:

The World Health Organization (WHO) is coming under criticism after recently releasing a new manual that urges worldwide abortion-on-demand and the subsequent disposal of babies as “waste,” which includes flushing their blood into the sewer.

http://christiannews.net/2012/11/25/world-health-organization-urges-global-abortion-on-demand-and-disposal-of-aborted-babies-as-waste/

Judge Sentences Teen to Church for 10 Years

The Story: An Oklahoma District Court judge sentenced a teen convicted of manslaughter to attend church for ten years as part of his probation arrangement.

The Background: The seventeen-year-old plead guilty to first-degree manslaughter in August for killing his friend and passenger in a car crash. According to ABC News, the Oklahoma teen was 16 at the time of the crash and had been drinking prior to the accident.

The judge could have sent the teen to jail but, taking into account his clean criminal and school records, sentenced him to wear a drug and alcohol bracelet, participate in counseling groups, graduate from high school, and attend a weekly church service of his choosing. To avoid jail time, Judge Mike Norman gave the teen a maximum 10-year deferred sentence.

“The Lord works in many ways,” Judge Mike Norman, a member of First Baptist Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma, told ABC News. “I’ve done a little bit of this kind of thing before, but never on such a serious charge.”

Judge Norman added, “I told my preacher I thought I led more people to Jesus than he had but, then again, more of my people have amnesia. They soon forget once they get out of jail.”

Why It Matters: While Judge Norman’s method may be unorthodox, there are a number of studies that show a positive correlation between religion and reduced crime and recidivism. As Baylor professor Byron R. Johnson wrote in his book, More God, Less Crime, young men who go to church regularly are less likely to be involved with alcohol, drugs, and crime. Similarly, released convicts who are involved with a local congregation are less likely to commit further crimes or return to prison.

However, even if it’s an effective crime-reducing measure Christians should oppose such sentencing since it subverts the nature of the church. As Mark Dever writes, “The church is the body of people called by God’s grace through faith in Christ to glorify him together by serving him in his world.” One of the ways we glorify Christ is through genuine, voluntary fellowship. As Dever explains,

Ultimately, fellowship among Christians in the church is based on the Christian’s covenantal union with Christ. According to the New Testament, therefore, Christians live with Christ, suffer with Christ, are crucified with Christ, die with Christ, will be raised with Christ, and are glorified with Christ. Christ’s life, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory become theirs through their membership in his new covenant.

As Christians we should embrace the opportunity to serve everyone affected by the criminal justice system. We should also recognize that our churches serve an important role within society as values-forming mediating institutions. But we must also make it clear that sentencing convicts to sit in a pew violates the nature of the church. The church is where we spend time together serving Christ in his world, not where we come to avoid serving time in prison.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/11/26/judge-sentences-teen-to-church-for-10-years/

Confession Time for Pastors – Paul Tripp

When the dirty task (washing the soiled feet of proud disciples) had been completed, Jesus looked at his disciples and said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to also wash one another’s feet.” Christ is saying, “The attitude I have had toward you, you must have toward one another. My sense of calling must become your sense of calling. The willingness that I have exhibited, you must live out in your ministries.” What is that attitude? What is the commitment that must shape the ministry of every pastor?

You and I must not become pastors all too aware of our positions. We must not give way to protecting and polishing our power and prominence. We must resist feeling privileged, special, or in a different category. We must not think of ourselves as deserving or entitled. We must not demand to be treated differently or to be put on some ministry pedestal. We must not minister from above, but from alongside.

What is the grand lesson, the grand calling of this startling moment? Jesus says, “If you’re not greater than your master, and he has been willing to do this disgusting thing, you must also be willing. If you are my ambassadors, called to represent my will and way, called to be tools of my redeeming grace, then there must be no ministry task that you think is beneath you. You must be willing to do the lowest, most debased thing so that my work and my will be done. You must not refuse. You must not think of yourself as too good. You must be willing to be the lowest of slaves in order that my kingdom may come. You must not be too proud.”

More Highly than We Ought
Let’s be honest, pastors. We are tempted to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. At times, we chafe against things that we think are beneath our pay grade. We are not always willing to do the dirty work of the ministry. I know I’m not always ready and willing. We are too oriented to reputation, position, and power. We desire to be recognized and to be prominent. We are not attracted to redemptive servitude. We want our ministries to be clean and comfortable. We tend to think of ourselves as more movers and shakers than servants. This doesn’t happen because you’re getting your identity as an ambassador. No, if you and I think any kingdom work is beneath us, we have become identity amnesiacs. And there is a short step between forgetting your assigned position and inserting yourself into God’s position.

The amazing example and commission of Christ should produce grief that leads to confession. We lose our way. We become more masters than servants. In our heart of hearts we know that we will never become what we have been called to become unless we’re rescued by the same grace we have been commissioned to proclaim and live before others. And we don’t have to fear that our silly, delusional, and unearned pride will cause the Father to turn his back on us. He knows who we are. He knows we don’t measure up. He knows we still fall short of his righteous requirement; that’s why he has given us the gift of his Son. We can run to him and admit to embarrassing self-glory and know he won’t embarrass us or slap us away, because our standing before him is not based on our performance but on the spotless performance of his Son.

So, with me right here, right now make the confession that you need to make. Cry for the help that you need. Your Savior is near, and he is both willing and able.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/11/25/confession-time-for-pastors/

What God Says About Violence Against Women and How the Church Should Respond

Today is recognized as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Thus it is fitting that some influential blogs have taken the opportunity to reflect upon the church’s response toward those who abuse, and to examine what God says in Scripture about such behavior.

Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes the following:

An abusive man is not an over-enthusiastic complementarian. He is not a complementarian at all. His is a pathetic aping perversion of Adamic leadership. He rejects male headship because he rejects his role as provider and protector.

http://www.russellmoore.com/2012/11/25/the-church-violence-against-women/

The Gospel Coalition Blog also addresses this issue by highlighting various Scriptures and concluding:

No matter how it’s spun, abusing women is unacceptable. Always. No asterisks.

God calls husbands to love their wives (Col. 3:19; Eph. 5:25, 33), to enjoy them (Eccl. 9:9), to understand them (1 Pet. 3:7), to honor them (1 Pet. 3:7), to nourish them (Eph. 5:29), to cherish them (Eph. 5:29), to provide for them (1 Tim. 5:8), to praise them (Prov. 31:28).

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/11/25/dont-mess-with-her-man/