In light of the recent launch of Ministry Grid, B21 will be running a set of three posts from different voices in the SBC on the importance of raising up leaders in the local church.
Make a Disciple, Make a Leader
“Every problem we have is a leadership problem.”
While certainly reductionistic, this phrase has been a mobilizing anthem and defining conviction for engaging the mission of God at The Austin Stone. Over the last ten years, we have encountered countless barriers to advancing the gospel, many seeming insurmountable. While we trust Jesus to accomplish His work, we have found that God’s answer is usually found in new leaders being raised up. While many churches will spend hours and hours designing and developing new strategies and tactics for solving the problems of ministry, we have found a very simple solution to most problems.
We develop leaders and leaders solve problems.
No matter how big the problem, no matter how monumental the task, God has consistently shaped history using human leaders. Broken…of course. Flawed…absolutely. Weak…you bet. Still, these people, despite all their shortcomings, are called leaders. So how do we make a leader for God’s mission?
In this post we will be extending the third installment of Jonathan Leeman’s breakout session at the Virginia Baptist Convention entitled “So is the ‘Baptist’ Brand Really Worth It?”
Question 2: Why should we emphasize congregationalism? Again, we should for three reasons. It’s biblical. It helps Christians to partake of their gospel work. It strengthens the church’s witness.
Congregationalism is biblical.
First, congregationalism is biblical. Who does Jesus task with excommunicating the unrepentant man in Matthew 18? Not the pastors. Not the deacons. He tasks the church.
Same thing in 1 Corinthians 5. Paul doesn’t tell the leaders to hand the man over to Satan. He tells the church.
And in Galatians 1: who does Paul say should stop allowing the false teachers to teach a gospel other than the one he preached to the church? Is Paul writing to the pastors, telling them to get the false teachers out of there? No, He’s telling the churches.
That brings us to the second reason we need to emphasize congregationalism…
Congregationalism helps Christians partake of their gospel work.
It’s the job of the whole congregation to guard the what and the who of the gospel. Church membership is an office. It’s a job. And every one joining your church should know that they now have a job to do: to guard the what and the who of the gospel. What is a right profession of the gospel? And who is a credible gospel professor.
That means, church leaders, you need to equip them to do their jobs. You need to make sure they know the gospel well.
It’s strange to me how even Baptists are sort of reluctant about congregationalism. I get this because there are so many bad examples of it. But again, that’s like saying there’s bad examples of marriages. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. And that’s where I’d point Baptists even to the PCA, who has congregations vote on their pastors, or even the OPC who has congregations vote on excommunication!
When you take the vote or governing authority out of the hands of Christian, you weaken the Christian and you breed Christian nominalism. I don’t have historical studies to prove this. But I think a casual look at church history would suggest that the further you remove authority from the hands of ordinary Christians—whether from a world-wide episcopacy based in Rome or Constantinople or from the state churches of Europe—the more you tempt people to nominalism (yes, I know there are other problems with Catholicism concerning the definition of faith).
Non-congregational polities—elder or pastor rule—effectively fire Christians from the job responsibilities assigned to them in the gospel. Do you want to cultivate a culture of discipleship in your church? Do you want to fight against Christian nominalism and Christian complacency? Then don’t fire Christians from the jobs, but keep people in their jobs by training them in how to do their well.
You strengthen a soldier not be letting him stay back in the supply tent, but by pushing him out onto the bridge and telling him to guard the bridge. So you who are pastors should be saying to your members, you’re responsible to guard the what and the who of the gospel. If I as you pastor compromise the gospel, fire me. If member 362 starts living in unrepentant sin, and brings shame on the name of Christ, that’s your responsibility. So get to know your fellow members now.
Congregationalism is not about arguing over the color of the carpets, or requiring the pastor to get congregational approval if he wants to buy a new photocopier, or putting microphones in the aisle during members meetings so that you an publicly oppose the pastors. It’s about the congregations having final say in matters of membership and discipline (Matthew 18) as well as in doctrine and who the pastors are (Galatians 1). Otherwise, members should learn to submit to their leaders (Hebrews 13, 1 Peter 5, Acts 20).
Congregationalism strengthens the church’s witness.
Finally, congregationalism strengthens the church’s witness. When you have a church filled with people who know how to clearly articulate the gospel, and who know it’s their responsibility to guard and protect one another in the gospel, what do you have? A strong and healthy church, whose members are better equipped to share the gospel with their non-Christian friends and neighbors.
Christians don’t think, “Hey, my pastor’s job is to share the gospel, so if I can bring my non-Christian colleagues to the church service, he’ll here the gospel!” No, they know that it’s they’re job to know and to live and to share the gospel.
All in all, I believe a congregational church that equips the saints for the work of the ministry, and for guarding the what and the who of the gospel is a church with a brighter and healthier witness.
Brothers, the Baptist distinctives of believer’s baptism, regenerate church membership, and congregationalism are not essential to salvation, but they are importing for guarding what is essential. The Baptist distinctives are not the glistening diamond of the gospel, but they are the platinum prongs which hold that diamond in place.
Jesus took them seriously. We should take them seriously.
Guest Post by Brian Davis: Brian is a Christian Hip Hop Artist who goes by the name God’s Servant. Brian is currently a church-planting intern with at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh and is planning to plant in Philadelphia. Brian also completed the internship at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
Like many, I was shocked by the recently released panel from the NCFIC on “Reformed Rap”. I wanted to chime in on the dialogue and offer some thoughts- both as an individual that is sympathetic to the panelists’ theological bent, as well as one who is a Hip-hopper culturally. There seems to be a lack of people who identify with both worlds, so I figured I would cast my lot in the pile. I hope it is helpful to the conversation.
I do want to preface by saying that I think these brothers are probably very godly men. While I haven’t heard of all of them, I have heard of some of them and their reputations are those of men who love the Lord, His Word and His church. My response is aimed at interacting with the thoughts they shared, not to make statements about the men themselves. I am sure this video is not reflective of the state of their godliness or the best barometer at assessing their lives–lives which are probably marked with decades of faithfulness to our Lord. I want to honor these men in the Lord, thank them for caring about the glory of God and share my thoughts to hopefully aid in future discussion towards unity in the body.
With that being said, I can’t help but lament how careless these brothers were in their language, and how revealing it is of a cultural elitism that is far too welcomed in Christianity and made at home by some of our leaders. When speaking of Christian maturity, we do not bring up the prevalence of the fruit of the Spirit in peoples lives, or their rootedness in the Word of God and how firmly they cling to the gospel. Rather, we reference sideways hats, music styles and earrings, as if that is somehow a good measurement of maturity from God’s point of view? Where is that in the bible?! We would all do well to do as these brothers suggest- adhere to every word we find in Scripture to ensure our worship is acceptable to God. However, the converse of such an admonishment is that we must be equally careful not to add to God’s Word in our efforts for purity in worship. By neglecting the former we end up like Nadab and Abihu; by neglecting the latter we end up like the Pharisees.
In an attempt to respond to some of the principles presented in the panel, I thought I would take a slightly different approach. Rather than going argument for argument (there have been several responses done in that format), I thought I would select a few key issues surrounding the conversation and try to interact with them. It seems to me that the issue in this debate (which is no new debate at all) is the mishandling of the bible, the confusion surrounding culture and the clouding of the glory of God.
1. The Mishandling of the Bible
The words of the psalmist echo in my mind here, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your Word” (Psalm 119:9). What a comfort this is! The Bible is a blade to cut through all speculation with a two-sided edge. On the one edge, it cuts down the careless heart that recklessly wanders into the presence of a Holy God. On the other edge, it cuts away the legalistic heart that would require something of a worshipper that God does not require in His Word. Some of the biggest straw men arguments that I hear lobbied against Christian Hip-Hop accuses those within the culture with phrases like “worldliness”, fleshy/flesh feeding, carnal, immature, etc, Now, while this sounds very God honoring and considerate (and I believe the brothers who make these accusations intend to be), it lacks exegetical integrity and hermeneutical care as it rips biblical phrases out of their contexts and seeks to apply them in ways that cannot be biblically sustained. For instance, to insinuate, as this recent panel did, that Christian Hip Hop is bad because God doesn’t just care about what’s being said but how it is being said and that anyone who holds to the sufficiency of Scripture should agree… is quite simply, ridiculous.
I was very troubled by this video clip of a panel that discussed the question: “What about Reformed Rap?” And I have to be honest, the more times I have watched it the more troubled I get that Christian brothers would speak the way they do about the Reformed Hip Hop movement. Three things in particular stuck out about this panel:
1) Sufficiency of Scripture – The most disappointing and ironic part of the discussion was that the scriptures were hardly mentioned. Now, the panelists spoke often of the sufficiency of scripture and its implications for musical worship. However, only once did a panelist make a passing quote of a scripture and never was a passage or reference explicitly mentioned. In fact, the panelist who posted the video clip on his blog spoke the most of sufficiency but he never mentioned a scripture. It’s extremely disappointing that a group of men that advocate the sufficiency of the scriptures so harshly critiques this genre without consulting the scriptures to do so.
2) The Implication that the Bible exhorts or endorses certain styles while condemning others – Several times it is alluded to that there are styles (in particular Hip Hop was mentioned) that are not “honoring to God” or they are distracting. Now to be sure there are certain things that would probably be tough to sing corporately, but this panel was ruling this genre out altogether. I believe the onus must be on these panelists to argue that the Bible commends or endorses a certain style and rules out other ones. For instance the Bible often mentions music and musical instruments, some that seem to imply there is quite a bit of beat to them (though we weren’t there so we cant know) in places like Psalm 150:3-6 which states, “Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” In addition, David commends this in 1 Chronicles 15:16, “David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy.” These are just a few of the many biblical texts that mention music and musical instruments without making a comment on styles. Again the onus is on these panelists to make a compelling argument from the scriptures as to why certain styles are out of bounds and if they are going to make this argument they need to at least use some scriptures to do so. Instead to bolster their arguments they make assumptions that the beats of rap songs distract from the message. In addition, they seek to bolster their argument by saying a good musical genre for the Christian should be memorable and rap fails at this. I think this argument actually works against what they are trying to argue because rap (due to the beats) is very memorable which is why I know of parents who use Christian hip hop to catechize their children because it is so memorable and rich theologically. Finally, some of the panelists use the cultural milieu that Hip Hop came out of to argue against Reformed Rap. A couple of quotes from Ed Stetzer’s Calling for Contextualization, Part 7 to address this argument and its irony:
“Of course I think it’s kind of strange to say, “I don’t believe in engaging culture or contextualization” while wearing a suit that became popular 50 years ago, singing music that became popular 100 years ago on an instrument that became popular 300 years ago on furniture that became popular 600 years ago.”
“Much of what you do in your worship was controversial or considered too far at some point in the past. Just music alone is enough to help you think through some of the issues. Can we sing songs not in the psalter? What about musical instruments? That was hotly debated a few hundred years ago, and of course, many Christians were against it. And once you okay musical instruments, which ones are acceptable? Reading how the church has handled the issue of culture historically will help you think through your own church and culture issues (and music is just one easy to see example).”
3) The Assumptions and accusations about the motives and intentions of Reformed Rappers – Finally, and probably the saddest aspect of this panel, are the assumptions and accusations made about the intents of the hearts and motives of reformed rappers. They are called cowards, those who capitulate to the World, attention seekers, and those who seek to serve their own flesh. This aspect of the panel was very discouraging and almost enraging as these brothers slandered brothers by making assumptions about their hearts and their motives. Though it is clear that are times to judge fruits, these panelists should consider the warnings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 that pertain to judging hearts and motives: “In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” It is disheartening to see that not one of the panelists thought these assumptions and accusations were out of bounds!
My hope is that my reformed rapping brothers will keep on rapping and giving the church rich theological songs that exalt Christ, edify the saints, and engage unbelievers. And my hope is that there will be more conversations on this topic where light instead of heat rule the day. And most of all I hope the scriptures are central to those conversations and not on the periphery.
Note: There will be a follow up post to this blog from Brian Davis who is a Christian hip Hop artist named God’s Servant. Brian is currently a church-planting intern with us at Imago Dei and is planning to plant in Philadelphia. In addition, Brian completed the internship at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
And to get a taste of some Christian Hip Hop check out his song, Worthy is the Lamb
In light of the recent launch of Ministry Grid, B21 will be running a set of three posts from different voices in the SBC on the importance of raising up leaders in the local church.
Our first post will be by Dr. Thom S. Rainer, President & CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, author of I Am a Church Member
Keys to Increasing Unity, Health, and Effectiveness in the Church
In a recent non-scientific Twitter survey, I asked pastors and church staff to respond with the biggest challenge they face in ministry. One of the issues noted was leadership development. This quote, expanded from its abbreviated Twitter form, is representative of the feedback I received: “We miss too many opportunities in ministry because we don’t have enough leaders ready.”
Regardless of the terminology you use, whether it’s “training” or “leadership development,” there’s a great deal of ambiguity with all of the thoughts and opinions floating around in the church today. Leadership development is critical for the health, unity, and effectiveness of the church, but it has become unclear as to what the best option is and what people mean when they use those terms.
Too many have gotten away from what Scripture shows us on the topic:
“And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (Ephesians 4:11-13, HCSB).
From this passage, we can learn three important lessons about training in ministry.
Scripture is clear: as pastors and church leaders are more involved in training others to do ministry, there will be greater unity, health, and effectiveness in the church.
Anyone who has served any length of time in ministry knows this. But as we researched this issue in local congregations, we uncovered a sobering reality:
While pastors affirmed their critical role in training others to do ministry, almost three fourths of these pastors had no plans to do so.
For most pastors, the reasons for this gap were simple: they either didn’t know how to take the next steps, or they didn’t feel like they had the time to do so.
At LifeWay, we are making this issue a major priority. We see a great opportunity to provide almost unlimited training in this digital age that could not be done in years past. So LifeWay is launching an affordable and convenient tool for both church leaders and those being equipped.
We call this training tool Ministry Grid (http://www.ministrygrid.com/). Its web-based platform allows you to assign video training and track the progress of users in your church or ministry. You may choose from over 1,500 videos or utilize Ministry Grid’s customizable features by uploading your own videos and turning off any unwanted content to suit your team or church. With both web and mobile apps, Ministry Grid gives your leaders access to training and allows them to be equipped to do ministry at anytime and anywhere that is convenient to them.
Ministry Grid was also developed in conjunction with the leaders who will be using it. We conducted panels and research to provide clarity to leadership training, and assembled an effective training model we believe is applicable to any church. It covers three main components: skillful training, facilitated by godly leaders, when people realize they need it.
First, skillful training impacts the head, heart, and hands (Acts 2:37). Skillful training evokes the passions and desires God has placed in the hearts of individuals as well as gives them practical methods to accomplish the tasks set before them. This may be training on deep spiritual issues or on more practical things like how to train parking lot attendants.
We reproduce who we are. Therefore, training must be facilitated by godly leaders. It’s not about programs and platforms or an information dump. Leadership development cannot be digitized. Training is most effectively accomplished through relationships.
Finally, people are most impacted by training when they realize they need it and when the training is applied specifically to their unique context. With Ministry Grid, when new leaders start asking questions, a coach can immediately assign the proper training in response and debrief with the leader at a later time.
With Ministry Grid, you will bring clarity to a very confusing conversation and precipitate growth at every level of leadership within the local churh
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