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Shepherding Discontented Sheep (via Nick Kennicott)

Nick Kennicott considers the delicate pastoral situation of Christians who move from one church to another because of unhappiness with their last church.

Faithful local churches want to grow through the redemption of sinners. Through evangelistic efforts and the consistent administration of the ordinary means of grace, there should be a healthy expectation that there will be new believers joining the church periodically. However, the most significant growth in most local churches is Christians transferring their membership from other local churches. Almost 60% of American churches have an average of 75 members, so it’s refreshing and can be exciting to see new faces with new and different gifts. It is not wrong to want to see the church grow, but it should never be without several important considerations.
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There are certainly cases when the discontentment of sheep is legitimate and they have good reasons to leave their church. Sadly, churches can be abusive and authoritarian, or they can be heretical. Additionally, a Christian should have a general desire to be in their church knowing that there is substantial agreement on doctrine and philosophy of ministry. If things change, there may be very legitimate reasons for a believer to look for a new church family. Likewise, Christians are never obligated to remain in a local church and nobody can insist that they must. Church membership is a vital aspect of the Christian life; but, Christians need to be members of a faithful local church, not necessarily any one church that they may have joined at some particular point in time.

Read the whole post at Reformation 21.


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Aligning Ministry Service With Personal Narrative (via Stephanie Judd)

Stephanie Judd writes about aligning Christian service ministries with the personal narrative of individual Christians.

The church is not a sausage factory. It’s a dynamic, diverse group of people that God has brought together in Christ. That’s what makes the church so amazing. But what this means is that to see people really fly as volunteers, leaders of churches need to resist the urge to be more concerned with filling gaps in rosters than they are about helping people serve in a way that aligns with their personal narrative. We need to sit down with people and ask the following questions:

  • What does it look like for you to live faithfully and courageously for Christ this year?
  • What excites you?
  • What energises you?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What ministry sparks your interest? Why?
  • What do you want to get out of serving?
  • What are your present commitments and what do they demand from you?

Asking these questions can tell you a lot about a person. Not only is it going to give you a good idea of what role is going to see them thrive and be a source of ongoing joy and motivation, it also gives you a touch-point to come back to. Six months down the track in enables you to say: ‘At the beginning of the year you told me that you wanted to join the welcome team to connect with more people at church. Is that happening for you?’

Read the whole post at Gospel Coalition Australia.


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Giving Up Boundaries With Jesus The Boundary Crosser (via Sarah Condon)

It’s a constant challenge to live in the truth that people are our ministry, not an impediment to our ministry objectives. It seems modern ministry strategies judge people not on the degree they cling to Jesus, but on the degree they usefully support the local church’s program objectives.
From Sarah Condon at Mockingbird.

And nothing made the Pharisees angrier than Great Aunt Boundary-less Jesus. Because he took their boundary ridden law and raised it to completion in himself. He both ignored the boundaries and finished them. The failure to adhere to boundaries was no longer useful, because Jesus had come to be the Boundary. And mercifully, he had decided to let everyone through, no matter what.
By and large, I believe boundaries to be utterly useless, at least when it comes to the Gospel. I am not an idiot. I understand that there are people we need boundaries with. Abusive family members, angry people on the internet, and (maybe) even addicts. Boundaries in and of themselves are not bad. But as is her usual tendency, the Church takes a self-help concept and makes a gnostic gospel out of it.
The worst use of boundaries comes from the mouths of the pastors and priests of the church. All too often a “boundary” is insisted upon when the people in the pews are struggling with loneliness or mental illness or are simply annoying. But we label them as difficult and relegate them to the gnashing of teeth beyond our magically “self-actualized” boundary.
And woe be it unto the parishioner who has been labeled evil or even demonic for the sake of creating a hedge grove of shunning. But the hard truth is that people are not automatically evil if they get in the way of ministry. They are just people being very people-y. We would do well to remember that Jesus might have been able to cast out demons, but he had dinner with “difficult people” on the regular. And he loved them. Just as they were.
Of course, I am not certain that this insistence upon boundaries in the church is sheerly the fault of ordained people. I heard the word “boundary” used in seminary at least as much as I heard the name of Jesus invoked. Also worth nothing, you would be hard pressed to find many seminary professors who have run churches for any length of time. They do not know (or perhaps remember) that these are real people we are categorizing. They are not solely their sins. They are not their only their obnoxious tendencies. They are people marked beloved by God whether we like it or not.
In numerous parts of my life, I am unsure of What Jesus Would Do. But I do know what he has done. He was the great Boundary Crosser, the finisher of all of the boundaries we place around one another, and the Rescuer who crosses all of the practical and personal boundaries to get that one difficult sheep back into the fold.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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Walking With Saints As They Near Home (via Zac Harrel)

Zac Harrel writes that amid a needed focus on discipling the young and newer Christians, there is a privileged ministry of pastoring senior saints as they near the end of their lives.
One of the ways we do that is through the ministry of presence:

Our wider culture wants to ignore and hide the dying, but the church cannot do this.
God has called us to shepherd his people in these last moments. Our presence reminds those we visit of God’s presence. It reminds them he is always there and will never leave nor forsake them.
God doesn’t call us to have all the answers. He calls us to be present. God doesn’t call us to have the right thing to say. He calls us to show up and to show his love.

Read the other two ministries at Gospel-Centered Disciples.


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The Warning Signs Of Preaching Idolatry (via Lewis Allen and The Preacher’s Catechism)

From Lewis Allen’s The Preacher’s Catechism – Q&A 23: What does the second commandment teach us? – You shall not make a preaching idol of your image or anyone else’s.

Here are some warning signs that you could be in danger of preaching idolatry:
You can never read the Bible for your own soul’s profit. It just doesn’t seem important anymore. Now you’re consumed with studying the Bible for the sake of others. In fact, when you do sit down to read your Bible, you actually start noting how you could preach the passage, and you’re halfway through preparing an out- line before you realize it. Maybe your soul is starting to shrivel just as your work expands.
You can never say no to a sermon. You get restless when you’re not preaching on a Sunday. You struggle to listen to the truth of a sermon, because instead you’re critiquing the sermon. You’re always looking for more opportunities to preach. Called you may be, and compelled to preach — well, that’s a given; but are you a preaching obsessive?

The Preacher’s Catechism, Lewis Allen, Crossway, 2018, pg 126.


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Jesus Says, “Feed My Sheep,” Not “Feed Your Ego.” (via Lewis Allen and The Preacher’s Catechism)

From Lewis Allen’s The Preacher’s Catechism – Q&A 9: Why does God call us to preach? – God calls us to serve all of our hearers with His Gospel.

Preaching to the glory of God is all about helping others to grasp and delight in the truth of the gospel. God’s glory revealed in the cross of Christ and declared in preaching is the good of grace-hungry people. “The eternal salvation of the human soul, through the presentation of divine truth, is the end of preaching,” William Shedd wrote. That is what God wants from you, and that is what your hearers need from you, regardless of whether they currently understand that or actually want it. Anything less is just bad preaching.
So, preaching is a pursuit of giving glory to God as his gospel truth in Jesus Christ is lovingly declared. As long as he gets the glory, what does it really matter what happens to us? If the splendour of God outshines and outlasts the tiny splendour of a billion suns, does your gratification in ministry really mean anything? Is your reputation of the slightest importance? Of course not. Preaching must always be an exercise in self-effacement, not self-promotion, or even self-fulfillment. Jesus says, “Feed my sheep,” not “Feed your ego.” People must be led to Christ, and led on with Christ through preaching.

The Preacher’s Catechism, Lewis Allen, Crossway, 2018, pg 62.


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Comforting (via Lunarbaboon)

A comic strip from Lunarbaboon that conveys some wisdom about the comfort of presence.