Don’t Neglect the Church Covenant

Don’t Neglect the Church Covenant

We are reworking our specific membership covenant that’s been largely non-existent in the life of our church for many years.  It is our desire as elders to raise it back up to a state of prominence, visibility, and functionality in the life of our church.  As I’ve recently been reading and considering the wording of our covenant, I’ve also been thinking about both the implicit and explicit membership covenant of the local church and its value for the church.  We would be wise to take it seriously.

The Implicit Church Covenant

As individuals follow Christ by faith and identify with Him through baptism, they are brought into the life of a Christian community called a church.  As individuals are added to the church, there are implicit expectations for both the church collectively and the new member specifically of the local assembly.  It comes with the territory—when you have people there are needs and expectations.

Some of the implicit membership requirements in a local church include:

  • Participation in corporate worship through the ordinary means of grace (preaching of the Word, observance of the ordinances, and prayer)—Acts 2:42-47.
  • Spiritual accountability (Matt. 18:15-20).
  • Submission to the spiritual leadership of the church (Heb. 13:17).
  • Pursuing holiness (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3).
  • Maintaining unity within the local church (Eph. 4:3; Rom. 12:18).
  • Not forsaking the assembling of the church (Heb. 10:23-25).
  • Visible and functioning member who exercising spiritual gifts in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-31; James 1:22).
  • Maintaining Christian love and honor for one another (Rom. 12:10; John 15:17; John 13:34; Eph. 4:2).
  • Engaging in the church’s ministry of discipleship and evangelism (Matt. 28:18-20).

Even without a written document titled, “church covenant” it’s abundantly clear from the pages of the New Testament that membership matters and certain responsibilities are inherently received as one enters the church as a follower of Jesus.

The Explicit Church Covenant

We engage in covenants at many different points in the course of our lives.  For instance, marriage is a covenant between two individuals and to God (in the presence of witnesses).  We enter into financial covenants when we purchase a home and sign off on a loan.  We are making a pledge to pay back the loan on certain terms.  This is a contractual and financial covenant—a promise made between two parties with binding agreements.

My father served for 36 years as a fireman in our community.  I can recall him explaining to me as a boy the importance of his uniform he wore to work every third day.  On his days off, he didn’t wear his uniform.  But, on every third day, he would appear in the living room early in the morning dressed in his uniform.  He explained to me that when he was dressed in the uniform, he was a direct representative of the local community.  Therefore, the chief had expectations for all employees and boundaries they must submit to while in uniform.  If they were caught in violation of those boundaries, it could result in a formal and professional reprimand.

As members of God’s universal Church, we represent Jesus no matter where we live and travel.  However, on a local level, we represent Christ and the local body that we’re members of in our community.  Many churches have a specified church covenant that outlines the big membership expectations for the entire church body.  These agreements serve as pledges or promises that we’re engaging in together with the entire church to engage in ministry and life that honors Christ.  A church covenant serves as promises to be kept, shared responsibility with other members, boundaries for ministry and life, and a healthy reminder of what’s expected of fellow Christians according to the Scripture.

Does your church have an explicit church covenant on display or contained in the governing documents of the church?  Does your church ever read it aloud in order to remind the entire church of the promises?  Do you take the church covenant seriously?  Could it be that the lack of functional and binding church covenants in the local churches of our day serves as proof of the downgrade of biblical church membership?

Often people make statements such as, “Do we really want to make it more difficult to enter the local church than it is to enter heaven?”  In one sense, yes we should.  For instance, the condemned man on the cross next to Christ went to heaven without entering through church membership.  So it is possible to go to heaven without church membership, but just not very likely.  Even if your church doesn’t operate with an official explicit church covenant, it would be wise to humbly submit to the implicit church covenant expectations found in Scripture.  Don’t play fast and loose with God’s church.  Make it your goal to become a visible, humble, functional, submissive church member for the glory of God.

Becoming an Extraordinary Church by Being Ordinary

Becoming an Extraordinary Church by Being Ordinary

If you read and study about the health of the church for any length of time, you will run across the phrase, “ordinary means of grace.”  The theologians of church history and many of our contemporary scholars, theologians, and pastors are all pressing the importance of clinging to the ordinary means of grace.  What exactly does this phrase mean?  In an age of cultural relativism, how can a church become extraordinary by being ordinary?

The Meaning of the Phrase

The phrase, “ordinary means of grace” is communicating something specific, and we must avoid two big misconceptions from the beginning.  First of all, the phrase is not intending to mean that grace is earned in any way by participating in certain acts of worship.  Secondly, grace is not ordinary in the slightest degree.  Grace is God’s gift to fallen, guilty, and wretched sinners who do not deserve anything other than God’s wrath.  So, with that being said, what exactly does the phrase mean?

In the Scriptures we are given an opportunity to look behind the curtain into the life of the early Christian church community.  In Acts, immediately following Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, the church grew from 120 in the Upper Room to over 3,000.  In Acts 2:42-47, we see the church meeting together for worship and fellowship.  In those meetings, we see three primary things happening (other than the fellowship) in their worship.  We see the ministry of the Word, the practice of the ordinances, and prayer.

Throughout history, preachers, scholars, theologians, and groups of Christians have sought to highlight the profound simplicity of the early church’s worship.  In doing so, we see statements like the following one contained in the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q: 88):

Q. What are the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption, are his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.

In a similar vein, we find the following statement in the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (chapter 14, paragraph 1):

The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word; by which also, and by the administration of baptism and the Lord’s supper, prayer, and other means appointed of God, it is increased and strengthened. ( 2 Corinthians 4:13; Ephesians 2:8; Romans 10:14, 17; Luke 17:5; 1 Peter 2:2; Acts 20:32)

Once again, it should be noted that it’s not through the media gratiae (means of grace) that a person earns salvation in any way.  It’s through the ministry of the Word that grace comes (Rom. 10:17).  It must likewise be noted that once a person is converted, grace is needed on a daily basis.  The grace of God is not a one time event, but a daily need from the point of conversion until we all stand in the presence of Christ.  Therefore, it’s through the ministry of the Word, the ordinances, and prayer that the Christian continues to be strengthened in the grace of God.

The Purity and Health of the Local Church

Today’s local church culture has, in many ways, lost what it means to be an ordinary means of grace church.  In an attempt to grow, expand, and do radical things for God, in many cases the local church employs methods and strategies that minimize the ministry of the Word, the ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and prayer.  You can see my recent article titled, “The Church Is Not Six Flags over Jesus” for more on that subject.

The evangelical landscape is littered with many different methods for reaching the modern culture.  We see everything from the “seeker sensitive” model to the “purpose driven life (and church)” model.  The evangelical church has toyed with ideas such as the emergent church methods and other relevant strategies geared to reaching a post-modern (or post-post-modern) culture.  Many Christians who focus on the cultural landscape are saying that we are living in a post-Christian era and that in order to reach people today the church has to do more than preach the Word, observe the ordinances, and pray.

Before we buy into that type of thinking, it would be wise to consider the landscape of Jerusalem at the time of Peter’s confrontational sermon at Pentecost.  It would also be extremely informing to explore the city of Ephesus with all of the idolatry and self exaltation and then consider the words of Paul to Timothy—”Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2).  If an ordinary means of grace method of ministry could reach Jerusalem in a post-resurrection era and if that same type of church could reach a sin saturated “Vanity Fair” city named Ephesus, why must we change directions and commitments in our present day?

If we’re honest, the early church was powerful and earth shaking in their mission as they were led by the Holy Spirit.  However, in all honesty, they were rather ordinary, simple, and straightforward in their approach to ministry.  If the early church was extraordinary by remaining ordinary in their obedience to the Lord, why would we seek to become extraordinary by abandoning the ordinary means of grace?

The extraordinary church focuses on the ministry of the Word, the ordinances, and prayer.  The ordinary church is really extraordinary.  When people ask you to describe your church, you may consider a long list of glowing adjectives as a description, but don’t underestimate ordinary.

The Church Is Not Six Flags over Jesus

The Church Is Not Six Flags over Jesus

My very best memories as a boy growing up are often linked to my time around the church campus and with the church family.  I will never know what it’s like to grow up disconnected from the life of the church.  My days as a boy were spent building friendships with people in the church.  I married a girl from our local church (we don’t remember the first time we met).  Basically, I grew up in the church.  I’m eternally grateful for my time spent on the church’s campus playing games with friends, playing basketball in the gymnasium, and going on church related trips.  However, I’m most grateful for the time spent on the church campus gathered in one room worshipping God with the church.

Today, there are various and sundry opinions on how to make the church successful and relevant to a modern culture.  Sadly, many pastors and church leaders are turning their local church campus into an amusement park for Christians rather than a campus designed for discipleship and worship.  Everything from a fire truck baptistry to indoor fireworks and weekly rock concerts are being used to attract people to church.  As we consider the importance of God’s church — the very bride of Christ — we should likewise evaluate the methods, strategies, and techniques that are being employed in our day beneath the umbrella of gospel ministry.

Pastors Are Not Performers

As a pastor, I’ve attended many different conferences designed for pastors and church leaders.  I’ve likewise attended many denominational meetings designed for the local church and pastoral ministry.  What I’ve seen in those conferences have troubled me through the years.  It seems that new categories for ministry have emerged onto the scene including gospel ventriloquists, gospel puppeteer, gospel comedian, gospel magician, gospel power team, gospel actors, and more.  It’s almost as if today’s church has lost confidence in the simple and straightforward proclamation of the gospel.

Many of today’s pastors are quite comfortable organizing special events and engaging in various types of entertainment to grow their church.  It’s not uncommon today to see pastors dressing up in costumes and acting out their sermon as opposed to preaching it.  Are pastors performers?  Did Paul write to the church at Corinth in order to remind them that it pleases God to save sinners by foolish entertainment?  Did Paul instruct Timothy to dress up and entertain the people of Ephesus or did he charge him to preach the Word?  The pastor is not called to entertain goats.  His duty is to shepherd souls by faithfully feeding the flock of God.

Worship Is Not a Roller Coaster

When I go to Six Flags with my children, they often want to get me on as many roller coasters as possible.  My children are thrill seekers.  If you look at the design of the roller coaster, it’s built in such a way as to get immediate results.  From the first drop to the final sudden stop, the track is designed with the goal of entertainment.  Nobody wants to ride a boring roller coaster—right?

When it comes to the worship service, many church leaders and pastors are now designing their worship services in similar ways.  The goal of entertainment from the opening of the service until the benediction is evident from the time you walk into the church’s worship center.  The choice of lights, their music, the lack of dead space, the lack of silence, the length of their prayers, the method of preaching, and the use of technology all point to a foundational goal of making people satisfied with the ride.  However, today’s evangelical church needs to recognize that worship is not a roller coaster.  Our goal is not always to have an immediate result of happiness and success.  Sometimes worship isn’t fun.  Sometimes worship isn’t a thrill.  Sometimes genuine worship leaves us with conviction and tears rather than the giddy laughter of a thrill ride.

The Need for Healthy Church Membership

We do live in a day where puppets are often preferred over preachers and where the worship service is expected to be designed like an exciting roller coaster ride.  There is much need for spiritual growth and maturity within the evangelical church today.

Although I critique the evangelical church in these areas, I am one who believes in God’s Church.  I think it would be foolish to repackage the local church or to abandon it altogether.  God has ordained the church as His plan for His people, but there is a need for greater health among the children of God in the area of ecclesiology.  As we consider the next 500 years of church history in light of the approaching anniversary of the Reformation this October, the area that needs the most attention in our day is biblical ecclesiology.  The church is not a waste of time nor is it a broken road.  The church is God’s special and unique plan for all Christians.  We must not give up on the church.

As we consider the need for health in the local church today, here are some areas that need attention:

  • Biblical preaching (verse-by-verse preaching).
  • The need for a high view of church membership.  What does it mean to be in a covenant with one another?.
  • The need to guard the front door and the back door.  Is it too easy to join and leave your church?
  • Functional church discipline in accordance with Matthew 18.
  • Healthy and biblical leadership (church government that finds its roots in the Bible rather than corporate America).
  • Congregational involvement in singing.
  • Congregational engagement in the preaching (expositional listening).
  • Spiritual maturity that’s achieved by biblical discipleship (a church of Bereans).
  • A firm reliance upon the power of the Holy Spirit for ministry.
  • Evangelistic zeal undergirded by theological conviction.
  • A biblical understanding of conversion (centered on God’s sovereignty resulting in man’s response).
  • Central and worshipful observance of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Any method of growing the church that deviates from God’s design is foolish.  When people become willing to employ gimmicks to “grow” their church — they’ve officially traded the Holy Spirit for schemes of man.  No matter what plan someone thinks up in the future, the very best church growth strategy is simply this — “We preach Christ crucified and resurrected from the dead.”  Can we have fun with the church?  Can the church provide a wonderful atmosphere where we build lifelong memories?  It absolutely can.  However, we must not forget that the church is the bride of Christ—not Six Flags over Jesus.  We as pastors and church members must be careful in how we treat the bride of Jesus.

Is Church Membership Biblical?

Is Church Membership Biblical?

Occasionally I run into people who make the claim that church membership is not mandated in the Scriptures and is therefore, optional for us in the Christian life.  Is church membership biblical?  Is it merely an optional choice for some people?  Where exactly do we find the answer to this important question?  As always, the sufficient source for such questions is the Word of God.  As we turn the pages of Scripture, we learn that God places much emphasis upon His Church.

Church Membership and Shepherding

From the very beginning days of the church, we see evidence that the people knew who was “in” and who wasn’t.  They numbered one another, as we see clear evidence in Acts 2:41.  The church grew instantly from a group of 120 in the upper room to an astounding 3,120+ in just one sermon.  There was a need to number and organize for shepherding purposes from the beginning.  It seems clear that they knew who was part of the church and who wasn’t.

As the church continued to grow in Jerusalem, the numbers quickly escalated and multiplied.  Deacons had to be appointed (see Acts 6) in order to serve the church.  The language in Acts 6 indicates that the church was organized as a known group.  The apostles encouraged the church to pick out from “among them” these seven men.  How could they be chosen to serve a random disorganized group unless the membership of the church not random and disorganized?  It’s clear that functional church membership was already in place.

In Ephesians 4:11-12, we see specific language about pastors equipping the saints for the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ.  If there is no mandatory church membership, how are we to be equipped for the work of ministry?  Are we to seek random pastors with random sermons and submit to their teaching?  It’s clear from such passages that God has designed His Church to be manifested in local, tangible, visible New Testament congregations that have specific structures from government to discipleship.  To avoid this God given model is a dangerous position to embrace.

Church Membership and Discipline

As we read of Jesus’ command to practice functional church discipline in the life of the church, how would this be possible if the membership of the church was not clearly known?  How could a person be treated like a tax collector and publican (which means to be put out of the church and disassociated with) if there was no understanding of church membership?

As Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about the sin of adultery and incest, he instructed the church “Let him who has done this be removed from among you” (1 Cor. 5:2).  How could a person be put out of the church if there was no definite boundaries for church membership?  As Paul continues to admonish the church at Corinth, he makes a distinction between those who are “inside” and those who are “outside” the church.  How would this be possible if church membership was not practiced from the beginning?

Church Membership and Authority

From a pastor’s perspective, how is he to care for specific souls under his authority if there is no explicit lines regarding church membership?  In Hebrews 13:17, the text clearly speaks of the leaders overseeing the church and how the church should properly submit to authority.  If there is no such thing as biblically mandated church membership, exactly who do we submit to?  Do we submit to random pastors on YouTube or in our community?  From my perspective as a pastor, who do I oversee and care for spiritually?  Do I oversee my entire town or city?

As Paul finished his time in the city of Ephesus, he called a meeting with the elders of the church.  Once again, just in that single statement we see specific elders serving a specific church.  He charged them with responsibility to oversee the flock of God that the Holy Spirit had made them overseers (Acts 20:28).  Paul then warned them regarding fierce wolves who would come in among them—not sparing the flock (Acts 20:29).  Notice the terminology.  Paul said, “among you” and talked of the wolves not sparing “the flock.”  This language points to the idea of a known and functioning church membership.

Kevin DeYoung has accurately stated, “The man who attempts Christianity without the church shoots himself in the foot, shoots his children in the leg, and shoots his grandchildren in the heart.” [1]  Church membership is, therefore; a mandatory privilege given to us by God, by His grace, and for His glory.  The church is God’s will for your life—don’t neglect it.  Don’t give your ear to fringe groups and subChristian teaching regarding the local church.  God has not designed His children to live the Christian life alone.  We need the church.

  1. Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 132.
When Should I Leave My Church?

When Should I Leave My Church?

Far too many people leave their church prematurely and without biblical warrant.  The evangelical church today is infected with a disease called—church consumerism.  People often choose a church based on what the particular congregation can do for them.  In other cases, people are too quick to abandon their church on the basis of unbiblical or superficial rationale. This is not a new problem and it likely will remain a problem until genuine reform happens on a local church level in the area of biblical ecclesiology.

As a pastor, I don’t like church hopping, skipping, or jumping (or whatever adjective best fits the situation).  The average church today fosters such behavior by not guarding the front door of the church.  We should be alarmed by people desiring to join our church from another church down the road based on superficial reasons.  Albert Mohler, in his article titled “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” writes the following:

When members leave [the church] for insufficient reason, the fellowship of the church is broken, its witness is weakened, and the peace and unity of the congregation are sacrificed. Tragically, a superficial understanding of church membership undermines our witness to the gospel of Christ. [1]

How do you know if you should stay or go?  What theological and practical guidelines should be considered before moving to another church?  Below you will find a list of considerations, but remember, this is not intended to be an exhaustive list.  Search the Scriptures and make wise, biblically informed decisions regarding church membership.

  • Are your pastors heretics (Gal. 1:7-9)?
  • Has your church embraced a false gospel (rejecting the Trinity, denying the deity of Christ, prosperity gospel, or some other false teaching)?
  • Are your pastors living in unrepentant sin (1 Tim. 5:19)?
  • Is your pastor a woman or does your pastor fail to meet the other qualifications of an elder (1 Tim. 3:1-7)?
  • Is your church living in carnal sinful patterns without discipline (1 Cor. 3:1; 5:1-2; 2 Thess. 3:6-14; 2 Tim. 3:5)?
  • Do your pastors have a low view of Scripture or do they disregard the inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-4:2)?
  • Does your church have what’s known as the right preaching of the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-5; Titus 1:9)?
  • Does your church follow an unbiblical method of observing the ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s Supper)?

Not all churches are on the same level of health.  Some are more healthy than others, and the same thing is true for individual believers.  However, it’s never permissible to move out and go get yourself a new family just because you’re having some problems with your spouse and children at the moment.  The same thing is true regarding church membership.  When (not if) problems arise in your local church, you stay put and deal with it as a mature follower of Christ.

If a person in the church is experiencing sin problems, that’s not a valid reason to leave your church.  You’re actually called to stay there and help the person in their walk with Christ.  If you have a disagreement with a leader in the church, that’s not a valid cause to find a new church to join.  The same thing is true regarding the new building, playground, or exciting ministry offered down the road at another church.  You should never consider leaving a church because of something offered at another church.  That’s the definition of church consumerism.  It’s a cancer that’s eating away many churches today as spiritual immaturity continues to be passed down from generation to generation.

In rare cases, a person will come to faith in Christ as a member within a very unhealthy and unbiblical church setting and question his church membership.  For instance, if Jim Smith is converted while he’s presently a member in a church where a woman is serving as the pastor, he doesn’t need to pray about leaving the church.  The same thing is true for those who come to faith as members of gay affirming congregations.  In such cases, it would be best for the spiritual wellbeing of the individual to move on to find a healthy church—and in such cases, a true church altogether.

In most circumstances, it’s not as cut and dry.  In the overwhelming majority of the situations, leaving a church should be done with great caution, with love, with maturity, with clear communication to the leadership of the church, and with a desire to submit to God’s Word.  Since we’re placed in a community of Christ followers by God and under spiritual authority, to leave a church outside of clear pastoral counsel is to avoid God’s will for your life.  This will not only leave the church weak and confused—but it will also do harm to you and your family.  When we make decisions regarding church membership, we must remember that the children are watching and listening.  Don’t pass a superficial understanding of church membership on to the next generation.

As you pray and evaluate your present church membership, ask yourself three important questions:

  1. Do I have a biblical reason for leaving my church?
  2. Have I sought the needed change and reform in my church in a biblical manner, voicing my concerns to the pastors in private?
  3. Is my desire to part fellowship with my church based on theological or selfish reasons?

In most cases, if the desire to leave a church is not based on the fact that a church has violated the right preaching of the Word, the administration of the ordinances, or the proper use of church discipline—it should be heavily examined for unbiblical rationale.  Be slow to move churches.  Be wise in choosing a church.  Be a healthy church member and you’ll reproduce other healthy church members too.  Over time, your church will become more healthy.

Since God hates those who sow discord and create division, it would not only be wise but necessary for you to leave your church only if you have a biblical reason for doing so (Prov. 6:6-19; 1 Jn. 3:14).  Even then, you should leave in a biblical and peaceful manner.  We must remain under authority even in how we leave a church (Heb. 13:17).  Alexander Strauch warns against division in the church by writing, “Behind most church fights and unresolved divisions is ugly human pride. And the worst kind of pride is religious pride, the Pharisaical pride of self-righteousness and superiority.” [2]  Whatever your decision may be, in the end, never leave a church with unresolved division so much as it depends on you (Rom. 12:18).

In the end, there are times to leave a church and you shouldn’t feel undue guilt or shame for doing so.  But, it’s highly probable that you should stay, pray, worship, work, submit, and serve within your church for the glory of Christ.  You may need to stop searching for the exit sign and start serving Christ within your local church.

  1. Albert Mohler, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” (Tabletalk, September 2009), 19.
  2. Alexander Strauch, Leading With Love, (Colorado Springs: Lewis and Roth, 2006), 167.
Thanksgiving Day—Give Thanks for the Church

Thanksgiving Day—Give Thanks for the Church

Today marks the annual Thanksgiving Day celebration throughout the United States.  Many people will cross all diet boundary restrictions, watch parades, visit family and friends, and watch football.  As we engage in the annual traditions of our culture and remember the purpose of Thanksgiving Day – we should likewise take a moment to thank God for the church and the many blessings that come to us as members of a local church.

Thankful for Preaching

In an age of confusion regarding the voice of God, we must not forget that our God speaks today.  Our God is the speaking God and He continues to speak to us through His Word.  If we want to hear the voice of God, we do so clearly through His Word.  It’s through the preaching of God’s Word that the gathered church hears the voice of God and submits to Him.

The right preaching of God’s Word that minimizes man’s opinions and elevates the Word of God line-by-line is the key to hearing God’s voice clearly.  As we assemble in a long line of God’s people throughout church history, we continue to hear God’s voice spoken to us through His unadulterated Word.  It’s not through mystical experiences and strange phenomenons that we come to hear God’s voice.  It’s through the faithful preaching, (I believe expository preaching is the truest definition of faithful preaching), of His Word that we hear God speak.

Thankful for Prayer

Prayer is one of the great privileges of God’s people.  God’s people have the privilege of prayer and can boldly access the throne of grace in private, but there is something unique and special about the gathered church coming together in prayer.  Paul urged the church at Ephesus to be constantly praying for all the saints (Eph. 6:18).  Colossians 4:2 speaks of being “steadfast” in prayer.  Jesus instructed us on how to pray in Matthew 6:5-15.  One of the great truths of the Christian life is that we as God’s children have access to the Father by the Spirit (Eph. 2:18).  Alistair Begg has written:

Prayer is an acknowledgment that our need of God’s help is not partial but total… Yet many of our church prayer meetings have dwindled in size and influence. Ultimately, the explanation can be traced to spiritual warfare. If, as the hymn writer says, Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees,” then we may be sure that he and his minions will be working hard to discredit the value of united prayer. The Evil One has scored a great victory in getting sincere believers to waver in their conviction that prayer is necessary and powerful. [1]

Thankful for Singing

The true child of God has a reason to sing.  Consider what happened immediately after the children of Israel were brought across the Red Sea.  They sang a song (Ex. 15:1-18).  Then Miriam sang, “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea” (Ex. 15:21).  The church is pictured as a singing church in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16.  The church assembled will sing – not based on preference and style – but based on truth and genuine desire to exalt Christ.  One of the most important things a church does is sing the gospel.  David penned these words in Psalm 9:11 – “Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion!  Tell among the peoples his deeds!”  Something unique happens when the gathered church sings the words to Isaac Watts hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Thankful for the Ordinances

The ordinances of the church are intended for two purposes—praise and worship of our God.  We praise Him through the waters of baptistry as we identify with Christ as our Savior and proclaim His resurrection to those who witness.  We praise God through the Lord’s Supper as we remember the very body and blood of Christ that was given as a substitutionary atonement in order to satisfy the holy justice of God.  These ordinances are designed to be observed with the assembled church – not as fragmented groups on the beach, in a dorm room, or with a single family in an empty room.  We gather together as a church to worship God and He has designed the ordinances to serve that unique purpose of praise.

Thankful for Discipline

Any church that refuses to practice biblical church discipline as mandated by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-20 forfeits the title of a biblical church.  Contrary to popular opinions, biblical discipline is the loving thing to do.  Jonathan Leeman writes, “Churches should practice discipline for love’s sake: love for the sinner, love for weaker sheep who can be led astray, love for non-Christian neighbors who need to see a holy Christian witness, and love for Christ and His reputation.” [2]  The idea of discipline being a necessary mark of the church is rooted in Jesus’ words and historic confessions such as the Belgic Confession from 1561.  Beware of any church that allows people to live loose lives of sin under the banner of “love” and a refusal to be judgmental.  That’s not true love.

Thankful for Fellowship

God’s people need the church.  For people to view the church as a burden, apparently they have no idea what it means to be a member of a local church.  God never intends his people to be “lone ranger” believers who sail out on the high seas alone.  God intends for His children to be identified with a group of people who live life together, worship together, engage in mission together, pray together, serve together, and fellowship together.  God’s very best place on planet Earth is the church of Christ.  It’s within the realm of the church that we should have our deepest relationships and it’s within these friendships that we laugh, weep, eat, and sharpen one another in the faith through biblical discipleship (Acts 2:42-47; Titus 2; Prov. 27:17; Heb. 10:24-25).  Charles Spurgeon once said, “Some Christians try to go to heaven alone, in solitude. But believers are not compared to bears or lions or other animals that wander alone. Those who belong to Christ are sheep in this respect, that they love to get together. Sheep go in flocks, and so do God’s people.” [3]

As we spend our time thanking God for all of the blessings of this life, don’t forget the enormous blessings that God showers upon us as members of His church manifest through our membership in a local church.  Thank God for the church!

  1. Alistair Begg, Made For His Pleasure, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 52.
  2. Jonathan Leeman, Reverberation, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011), 188.
  3. Charles Spurgeon, Sermons, 30.597