Mission, Core Values and Vision

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What is the Church? What should be its identity? What is it supposed to value? Where should it be going? And, what is it supposed to do?

The word “Church” comes from the Anglo Saxon word “Kirk” which is derived from the Greek word kyriakon which means “belonging to the Lord.” So a person could think of “church” as a people or a building “belonging to the Lord.” But in the English New Testament, the word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which means “assembly” or “congregation” and never refers to a building. Therefore, the “church” is the people who belong to Jesus Christ.

This basic definition is helpful, but it obviously leaves out a lot that the New Testament mentions in reference to Christ’s church. Concisely defining the church is a daunting task. Invariably one will leave some aspect out. Nevertheless, we need to further define the church somehow, so let me offer my definition: “The unified, universal, pure, and apostolic Church is comprised of all believers elected of the Father, redeemed by the Son through faith, and regenerated by the Spirit who places believers into Christ’s Body.  Local churches are visible expressions of this universal body which exalt God, edify, and equip the saints through the Word of God that they might use their gifts, make disciples, minister mercy, and evangelize the unsaved; observe the initiatory ordinance of believers baptism and the continuing ordinance of communion; govern through congregational polity as led by elders and served by deacons; and discipline preventively and correctively.”

This definition gives the big picture of what the church should be and do now and in the future. And, today, in a two-part series, I want to flesh it out some more by presenting to you the mission, core values, and vision I believe all local churches should have, including Grace Baptist Church. 

Aubrey Malphurs states that a mission statement answers the question “what are we supposed to be doing?” A statement of core values answers the question “why do we do what we do?”  And, a vision statement deals with the issue of “what kind of church would we like to be?”[1] 

In terms of a mission statement, “what we are supposed to do?”, the Bible gives us some direction. Our mission is given to us in the Great Commission. “18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matt. 28:18-20, ESV). To recast and personalize these words by our Lord into a mission statement for Grace Baptist Church we could say:

“The mission of Grace Baptist Church is to lead others in Owasso, the Greater Tulsa Area, and beyond to faith in Christ and growth in Christlikeness for the glory and enjoyment of God.”

Though not comprehensive, we are going to consider twelve qualities or values today that are essential to carrying out this mission and fulfilling a biblical vision for the local church. With broad strokes I desire to paint a picture of what we are as well as what we can and should be for the glory of God.  Certainly, no church can perfectly possess and perform all the qualities I am going to share with you. But, we must have a goal and ideal in mind, otherwise we will do little to nothing in accomplishing the mission to which the Lord has called us. First, I want to suggest the local church must be…

 

1.  A Bible-Preaching Church: Preaching that draws upon the Bible and points to Christ.

One of the battle cries during the Protestant Reformation was Sola Scriptura which means “Scripture alone.” This doctrine teaches that the Bible is the only authoritative and sufficient source for all matters of our faith and practice. Paul wrote, “16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, ESV). The Bible reveals God to us and how we are to respond to that revelation. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4, ESV). Paul states, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17, ESV).

Scripture should regulate or dictate all that a church and individual Christians do. And the way (albeit foolishness to the world) that the Word of God is communicated is through preaching (1 Cor. 1:18). When Paul charged Timothy in his ministry he was direct and clear-cut.  He simply charged him to “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2, ESV).The proclaimed Word of God is to be primary and central to everything the local church is and does.More specifically, expository, Christ-centered preaching must be primary and central in the life of a church, as it is here at Grace Baptist Church.

This morning and evening I am not preaching an expository message, which is necessary in the life of a church at times when a particular issue or topic needs to be addressed that requires a more thematic approach. But, by and large, the steady diet of preaching in a church needs to be expository in nature. Why? Because we embrace the authority and sufficiency of the Bible, we believe that accurately drawing out the meaning of a text and then declaring it is supreme. The preacher should not be interested in finding out what people think and then telling them what they want to hear.

Citing an article from The New Yorker, Os Guinness gives this critique of many modern preachers, “The preacher, instead of looking out upon the world, looks out upon public opinion, trying to find out what the public would like to hear. Then he tries his best to duplicate that, and bringing his finished product into a marketplace in which others are trying to do the same.”[2]

This is a sad, but often true, indictment of many pulpits in our land. But, it should not be. The true preacher will not fear man. He will fear God supremely and as a result preach His Holy Word without regard for the favor of man. And yet, let me say, just quoting Bible verses does not make a man a biblical preacher. In fact, just stringing verses together can be dangerous. An unbiblical preacher can make the Bible say anything he wants it to say if he strings enough proof-texts together. Yet, this method can be deceptive. It gives the veneer of being a “biblical sermon” when in reality it is not the Word of God. Instead, it is only the opinion of a man who uses scriptural texts to justify his pre-determined view. Expository, Christ-centered preaching is the safeguard against this abuse and is why it should be the main diet of preaching in a church.

Let me define these terms “expository” and “Christ-centered” by first having Haddon Robinson define “expository preaching” for us. He gives this classic definition: “Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through the preacher, applies to the hearers.”[3]

Expository preaching is different from topical preaching in that the pastor strives to draw out the meaning of each text he preaches (exegesis), rather than imposing his ideas into a text (eisogesis). In other words, the expository preacher asks, “What does the Bible say?” Conversely, the topical preacher asks, “What are some verses I can use to support my preconceived notions of the topic I have in mind?”

After proper exegesis (keeping a text in its original historical and grammatical context), the preacher then applies the ancient text to his modern audience. Typically, preaching series through books of the Bible lends itself to expository preaching because if forces the preacher to keep every text in its proper context. Again, there are occasions when the preacher needs to address topics. But, when he does so, he needs to make sure he is not abusing or taking verses out of their proper context.

Further, let’s understand, sermons that are expositional need to also point people to Christ. They need to be Christ-centered sermons. Unfortunately, some sermons are expositional, but not Christ-centered. They may do a good job in drawing out the meaning of the immediate context of a text, but they fail in tying that context into the larger context of Scripture – the larger, redemptive focus of Scripture. So, when a pastor approaches a text and exposits it he also needs to fit it into the larger, biblical theology framework. He has to keep his particular text in the context of the whole Bible. He needs to set his sermon within the larger, “creation-fall-redemption-restoration” frame of Scripture, which in turn will inevitably point to Jesus.

Preaching Christ-centered sermons was Christ’s method of interpreting the Bible. While traveling on the road to Emmaus, Jesus exposited Himself from the Scriptures to two disciples. Luke records, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, ESV). Along these lines, Jesus said on another occasion, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39, ESV).

The Bible is about Jesus – His person and redemptive work. Therefore, may the motto of preaching at Grace Baptist Church always be “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23, ESV). By God’s grace, may Grace Baptist Church be a church that preaches the Bible which in turn points to the Savior.

 

2.  A Gospel-driven Church: The Gospel that transforms our lives.

The Gospel is the good news of reconciliation. We should preach the Gospel to the unconverted. And, we should preach the Gospel to ourselves (the converted) because Gospel saturated-lives lead to transformed, Christlike lives. The Gospel is not just for the unsaved to hear it is for the Church too. Paul said to the Corinthian believers, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand” (1 Cor. 15:1, ESV). As believers, we are to continue to stand in the Gospel. Christians are to constantly rehearse how the Gospel with all its ramifications applies to their lives. Our sanctification is nothing more than getting used to our new status of being justified. It is becoming comfortable in our new skin of “justified.”

The problem for us as Christians comes when we segregate the Gospel from our thinking and living and as a result we become guilt-driven or performance-driven, rather than Gospel-driven. C.J. Mahaney said it well:

If there’s anything in life that we should be passionate about, it’s the gospel. And I don’t mean passionate only about sharing it with others. I mean passionate about thinking about it, dwelling on it, rejoicing in it, and allowing it to color the way we look at the world. Only one thing can be of first importance to each of us. And only the gospel ought to be.[4]

Mahaney is also helpful when he states:

The gospel isn’t one class among many that you’ll attend during your life as a Christian – the gospel is the whole building that all the classes take place in! Rightly approached, all the topics you’ll study and focus on as a believer will be offered to you ‘within the walls’ of the glorious gospel.[5]

By God’s grace, may Grace Baptist Church be a church that lives according to the Gospel by proclaiming it to others and ourselves.

 

3.  An Evangelizing Church: Evangelism that makes disciples.

For many, personal evangelism and corporate evangelism is a difficult thing. This is why we need the Gospel to be constantly rattling around in our minds and hearts so that out of the overflow of God’s grace in our own lives we desire to share that same message of grace with others.

Evangelism is the “pink elephant in the room” of our Christian lives many times. It is in our minds as we rub shoulders with the lost and yet we try to ignore it and will not talk about it. Yet, we are to be “witnesses in [our] Jerusalem and in [our] Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, ESV). The place we need to start is in our Jerusalem – Owasso. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21, ESV). The Lord is sending us as evangelists to our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and acquaintances.

If we are believers we can have all the equipment and knowledge we need to evangelize successfully. Christ has saved and transformed us. Now, we just need to go and share that story.

Fortunately, we are not left to our own strength in this regard. The same Holy Spirit who empowered early believers is the same Holy Spirit who indwells and thereby will empower us today. Moreover, Jesus gave us this promise as we seek to do evangelism that makes disciples: “I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matt. 28:20, ESV).

Brethren, the church has a responsibility to train you and give you ministry opportunities to reach the lost. Preaching from the pulpit, door-to-door evangelism, evangelism-training, canvassing, welcoming guests as they attend here, servant-evangelism events, other church-wide evangelism events – you name it. All of these things are good to do and should be done. But, let me state the obvious, the majority of fruit is not going to be seen from formal church ministries. Most of the fruit is going to be seen from informal ministry you do on your own. It is going to come from you getting personally involved in the lives of people, showing you care about them, and letting your light shine before them rather than hiding it (Matt. 5:14-16).  Congregation, let these words of C.H. Spurgeon be a challenge to us:

If I never won souls, I would sigh till I did. I would break my heart over them if I could not break their hearts. Though I can understand the possibility of an earnest sower never reaping, I cannot understand the possibility of an earnest sower being content not to reap. I cannot comprehend any one of you Christian people…being satisfied without results.[6]

By God’s grace, then, may Grace Baptist Church be a church that shares with thousands in Owasso and the Greater Tulsa area the salvation which is ours by grace alone, by caring for others, by witnessing in the power of the Holy Spirit, and by proclaiming God’s truth in love to all our neighbors.

 

4.  A Disciple-Making Church: Discipleship that develops disciples.

The second half of evangelism is discipleship. The purpose of evangelism is discipleship. For us to only reach the lost with the Gospel, but not help them become faithful followers of Christ is to fail in fully carrying out the Great Commission.  As previously mentioned, the Great Commission clearly states, “Make disciples” (Matt 28:19).

It makes sense that the Lord Jesus should say these parting words to His disciples before ascending back to the Father. They reflect what He had done for His three years of ministry to them. He poured His life into these men. He made disciples of them to make disciples of others. Robert E. Coleman explains:

It all started by Jesus calling a few men to follow him. This revealed immediately the direction his…strategy would take. His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow. Men were to be his method of winning the world to God.[7]

 Along similar lines Leroy Eims notes, “These men [the disciples] were [Christ’s] work. His ministry touched thousands, but He trained twelve men. He gave His life on the cross for millions, but during the three and a half years of His ministry He gave His life uniquely to twelve men.”[8]

So, the Lord Jesus poured His life into twelve weak, ordinary men. In turn, these men multiplied themselves as they poured their time and energy into others. The church grew and the world has never been the same. This biblical method of discipleship is a method of multiplication. And, it should be the method of every local church. The goal is for us to look at discipling the “nth” generation, not just the person we are disciplining right in front of us. After one individual has discipled another person you now have two mentors. These two individuals then disciple two more.  Now you have four individuals who can disciple four more, etc. In time, many people will have had a lot of quality time poured into them which they can in turn pour into other disciples.

There is clear Scriptural support for this multiplication approach. Paul wrote to Timothy the following: “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2, ESV). There were four discipleship generations represented by this verse – Paul, many witnesses, Timothy, and faithful men. Paul also states in his epistle to the Ephesians, “11 And [Christ] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,  12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12, ESV). Here again we see the principle of multiplication.  Pastor-teachers are to equip the saints in order for them to carry out the work of the ministry.

Besides clear statements in Scripture which encourage discipleship, we also see it lived out in flesh and blood. Jesus and His disciples are the most obvious example. But, we also see it demonstrated with Peter’s discipleship of Mark, Elijah’s mentoring Elisha, and Paul discipling Timothy and Titus. We need to be discipled and then turn around and pour our lives into other believers. By God’s grace, may Grace Baptist Church be a church that develops Christlike disciples who think rightly about Christ and follow rightly after Him through various Bible studies, Sunday School, and individual and small group discipleship.

 

5.  A Committed Church:  Members committed to God and each other.

This particular core value overlaps with all the other values that I have mentioned this morning and will tonight. Because it overlaps, I hesitated including it. But, ultimately I decided to include it because without commitment none of the core values will come to fruition. For a church to be what God wants her to be, her members must be committed to God and one another.

I know we live in a commitment-phobia culture and unfortunately that fear of commitment has leaked into the subculture of many local churches. This is something we need to recognize and then by God’s grace fight against it because Scripture assumes “commitment.” When giving one of his vignette descriptions of the early church, Luke records, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42, ESV). Notice, Dr. Luke says the early saints “devoted themselves” to these things. Devotion is a synonym for “committed.”  This is how the first century, Jerusalem believers were described and it should describe us as twenty-first century believers, as well.

Such commitment should begin the moment a regenerate, baptized believer joins a church. The New Testament gives ample evidence for church membership by the example of the early church. The New Testament uses phrases like “the whole church” (Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 14:23) and “the majority of the church” (2 Cor. 2:6). And the NT mentions how the early church used lists and knew the number of members in the church (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 1 Tim. 5:9-11). Question: How would anyone know when the whole church was gathered into one place? Or, how would anyone know when there was a majority or minority of the church present? Well, there’s only one way. There had to be some formal way of identifying who was in the whole church. And given that we know there was a list for widows in the church, more than likely there was a larger membership roll for the whole church. Further, the New Testament uses the word “join” in reference to connecting with a church like we see in Acts 5:13. Those are just some quick biblical evidences for membership in the early church. But, the point I want to make is this: church membership was not just a practice by the early church that we can take or leave. It was a practice that was and is still necessary for us today.

Church membership is necessary for many biblical reasons. Considering those many reasons is worthy of a series. But, since we do not have the time for that today, let me just quickly list some major reasons.

First, the Scripture’s use of metaphors makes church membership necessary (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 12:27; 1 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 2:21). A flock, body, family, building, and bride are pictures used to describe the church. These metaphors all refer to belong to something else or someone else. They all picture inter-connectedness. Bricks in a building are connected to other bricks. A body is made up of parts which are connected with each other. English pastor, Eric Lane, says the following about biblical metaphors and membership:

God has given us four pictures of the church, not one. This is not just to emphasize and prove the point by repetition, but also to say four different things about what it means to be a member of a church. To be a stone in his temple means to belong to a worshipping community. To be part of a body means to belong to a living, functioning, serving, witnessing community. To be a sheep in the flock means belonging to a community dependent on him for food, protection, and direction. To be a member of a family is to belong to a community bound by a common fatherhood. Put together you have the main functions of an individual Christian. Evidently we are meant to fulfill these not on our own but together in the church. Now can you see the answer to the question why you should join a church?”[1]

Also, the Scripture’s call for church discipline makes church membership necessary

(Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:9-13; 1 Tim. 1:18-20). In his instructions in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul talks about “putting away” or “removing” from membership an immoral man who was being disciplined. He was put out of the church to protect the testimony of the church and provoke him to repentance. His removal necessitated membership. He could have never been formally put “out” of the church unless he was first formally “in” the church. Whereas, discipline is the mechanism to exclude someone from the church, membership is the mechanism to include someone into the church.

Further, the Scripture’s call for pastoral oversight makes church membership necessary (1 Tim. 3:1; 1 Pet. 5:3; Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17; Eph. 4:11; 1 Tim. 1:3-5; 3:2; 5:17; Titus 1:9; 1 Pet. 5:1-5; 2 Thess. 1:3-12). The Bible clearly teaches that God has designed the church so the people of God follow the leadership of their undershepherds. But, pastors can only fully shepherd believers if they have entered into covenant commitment with a local church and thus invite the pastors into their lives to shepherd them. A pastor will be limited in how much he can shepherd non-members in areas like equipping them for ministry, caring for them, teaching them, leading them, exhorting them, correcting them, encouraging them, etc. Ultimately, pastors/elders are not responsible for the spiritual well-being of every person who visits or attends the church. Rather, they are responsible for those who have voluntarily and scripturally submitted to the care and authority of the elders of a specific local church. This assumes and necessitates a clearly defined church membership.

Also, the Scripture’s “one another” commands make church membership necessary. The New Testament has scores of “one another” commands – like “consider one another,” “love one another,” “submit to one another,” “serve one another,” “spur one another on,” etc. Obviously, Christian non-members can fulfill many of these “one another” commands to a degree. But, non-members will not be able to completely fulfill them because many of the commands require mutual commitment. There will be limitations to their commitment.

So much more could be said about church membership than I am saying now. But, the main point I want to make now is simply this: Church membership implies commitment. Biblically defined membership does not make sense without commitment to Christ and His church. It does not make sense without a commitment to growing spiritually and serving in ministry. When you join a church you are making a commitment. Ultimately, you are covenanting with a local church body. You are promising to believe, be, and do many things. Historically, this is why Baptist churches have had both confessions of faith and church covenants. A church’s confession of faith is an objective way for believers to confess, “Here is what we believe doctrinally.” And, a church’s covenant is an objective way for believers to confess, “Here is how we promise to live ethically.” In other words, “Here is how we will live a life of commitment to God, His church, and personal holiness.”

Biblically, as church members we commit to many things. Let me quickly run through some examples. We commit to protecting the unity and purity of our church (Eph. 4:3). We commit to acting in love toward other members (1 Pet. 1:22; Philp. 2:1-4). We commit to following the leadership (Heb. 3:17). We commit to upholding the discipline of the church (Matt. 18:15-18). We commit to faithful and sacrificial giving to the church (1 Cor. 16:2). We commit to corporate prayer and active corporate worship (1 Tim. 2:8; Eph. 5:18-20). We commit to faithful observance of the ordinances (Matt. 28:19; Luke 22:19). We commit to seeking the church’s growth and health (Eph. 4:14-16). We commit to serving and building up the body of Christ by using our spiritual gifts (1 Pet. 4:10-11). And, we commit ourselves to being with one another (Heb. 10:25).

Committed attendance is the most basic and necessary commitment to fulfilling all the other commitments I have mentioned. Certainly, many commitments we make as members should happen outside these walls. But, commitment must start with our corporate worship when we put ourselves under the preached Word – the primary, God-ordained means for our spiritual growth. So, by God’s grace, may Grace Baptist Church be a church that takes church membership seriously by being committed to God and each other.

[1]G. Eric Lane, I Want to Be A Church Member (Bryntirion, Wales: Evangelical Press of Wales, 1992), 21.

 

6.  A Praying-Church:  Prayer that shows dependence.

At all levels (corporately, in small groups, families, and individually), both privately and publicly, a church should be marked by prayer because Christians should express their dependence on the Lord. Martin Luther, the great Reformer, said, “As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.” [10] The esteemed Puritan theologian John Owen gives us a good challenge, as well. He writes, “Pray as you think. Consciously embrace with your heart every gleam of light and truth that comes to your mind. Thank God for and pray about everything that strikes you powerfully.”[11]

The reason a church should devote much time for prayer in worship services, Sunday School, prayer meetings and on other occasions is because we must constantly tell “Our Father” we need Him (Matt. 6:9). We are commanded to: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17, ESV). We should spiritually exhale prayers throughout the day as naturally as we physically breathe throughout the day. By voicing prayers of confession, praise, thanksgiving, supplication, and intercession we are granted the pleasure of discovering more of God’s glory and seeing His power unleashed more in our lives.  A.T. Pierson commented:

Every new Pentecost has had its preparatory period of supplication….God has compelled his saints to seek Him at the throne of grace, so that every new advance might be so plainly due to His power that even the unbeliever might be constrained to confess: “Surely this is the finger of God!”[12]

So, prayer should not be a filler in worship services or the life of a church.  It needs to be a top priority for every member of a church.  So, by God’s grace, may Grace Baptist Church be a church that saturates every facet of ministry in desperate prayers of dependence on Christ.  Individually, corporately, and globally, may she strive to intercede for the effectiveness of her church, for the needs of her people, for the needs of her community, for the needs of her nation, for the needs of her world, and for her missionaries who seek to reach it fr Christ.

 

7.  A Gift-Exercising Church:  Ministering to the body of Christ.

Scripture gives us various lists of the spiritual gifts (Rom 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11, 28; Eph. 4:11-12, 1 Pet. 4:10-11). It is highly probable that these passages are not exhaustive lists of all the spiritual gifts. But, they do illustrate the various gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to the Church as He wills (1 Cor. 12:11).

Now, it is important when talking about spiritual gifts to differentiate between them and natural talents. First, spiritual gifts and natural talents differ in that only the regenerate can have spiritual gifts. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14, ESV). So, spiritual gifts are not hereditary like natural talents can be. Further, talents and gifts differ in that spiritual gifts are for the purpose of edifying other believers. The abilities of unbelievers are used for self-glory. They only build up the person performing the ability. Spiritual gifts, on the other hand, are endowed by God “for [the purpose of] the edifying (or “building up”) of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12, NKJV). The apostle states this purpose again three more times in 1 Corinthians. He says that spiritual gifts are for the common good of the church (1 Cor. 12:7; 14:5, 12).

 To ensure that there is inter-dependence between members of the body of Christ no one believer has all the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:14-21) nor is any one of the gifts given to all believers (1 Cor. 12:14-21). So, members of a church need each other. All spiritual gifts are important (1 Cor. 12:22-26). The church functions through spiritual gifts, just as a body functions through its various parts. Therefore, all Christians with the help of the church and its leadership are responsible for discovering, developing, and using their spiritual gifts in ministry.  New members should know up front that they are expected to get involved. The church’s responsibility is to help them get connected to various ministries by assessing their spiritual gifts and assimilating them into appropriate ministries. Everyone can and should serve in some capacity in the church. A spectator attitude is unacceptable. All the members of the body of Christ are to care for one another, rejoice with one another, hurt for one another, etc. By God’s grace, may Grace Baptist Church be a church that brings others into the membership of her covenant community and assimilates these new members into ministries according to their spiritual gifts.

 

8.  An Equipping Church: Equipping the saints for ministry.

Most of us can relate to not having the right tool for a task. We know what it is like to try to twist a screw with a flathead screwdriver when we really need a Phillips screwdriver. We can make do in such situations.  But, if we lack the proper tool in other situations, it can be the difference between life and death. For example, the Army Ranger who is repelling down a wall as he invades the enemy is in big trouble if he has a deficient rope or harness. Or, the heart patient is in big trouble if his surgeon does not have the right scalpel.  The heart surgeon cannot say, “Well, I don’t have the right scalpel, but, hey, at least I’ve got my Swiss Army Knife. It will do. This is the same knife that I used yesterday to cut the fishing line when I was fishing at the lake.” Admittedly, this example is unrealistic. But, the point stands.  If you do not have the right equipment for a task you could be in big trouble.

As members, we are to do the work of ministry. This work is paramount because the health of the church and the souls of people are at stake. The biblical church does not embrace the notion that only pastors are the ministers.  We are all ministers or priests who do the work of the ministry (2 Pet. 2:9). Paul puts it this way: “11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds (or “pastors”) and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12, ESV). According to this text, the pastor’s job description is not to do all the work of the ministry himself. This approach to ministry is unbiblical and common sense tells us it is counter-productive. Rather, pastors are to equip saints that they might be co-laborers with them in the ministry.

As inspired Scripture teaches us doctrine, reproves us, corrects us, and instructs us in righteousness, we will be properly equipped for every good work of ministry (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  God’s plan for effective ministry is for everyone to be properly equipped for ministry and then use his or her gifts in ministry. We work better when we are equipped and working together. The result: the body of Christ is built up (Eph. 4:12).

As God’s Word is poured into God’s people through preaching, teaching in Sunday School, small group discipleship, etc. the purpose is that they be equipped to more effectively minister in ushering, in greeting, in singing, in teaching, in serving, in evangelizing, in worshipping, etc. All of this  edifies the church and gives glory to Jesus Christ who said He will build His church (Matt. 16:18). So, by God’s grace, may Grace Baptist Church be a church that discovers the spiritual gifts of all members, placing them in the right place of ministry, and training them to effectively accomplish their ministry. 

 

9.  An Authentic Church: Fellowship that fosters authentic community.

Our fellowship is in the Gospel which transforms us and allows us to be authentic with one another. We are all sinners seeking to grow in grace (2 Pet. 3:18).  And, a chief means of grace is the church.

We need each other. God’s way for Christian growth is growing together, not just separately. Christians grow in grace through the church, not apart from it. The author of Hebrews writes: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24, ESV). In other words, we should be doing soul-care for one another. Instead of hiding behind facades we need to be involved with one another and real with one another. In love, we should encourage and admonish one another unto godly living for God’s glory (Rom. 15:14; Heb. 10:25). We are to be saints in community seeking sanctification together (Heb. 12:14). This is why being here for worship services, in each other’s homes, and each other’s lives – participating in community is essential.

We should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, because we need to be exhorting one another (Heb. 10:25). Many professing Christians do not see the need to faithfully attend or join a church let alone be involved in the lives of Christians in a local church. Yet, true Christians understand they desperately need Christian community. They know they need its love, edification, encouragement, admonishment, affirmation, and accountability. The fact is: we cannot grow as God intends if we are not intimately tied to the means of grace provided by the church. At best, without authentic community we will be deformed spiritually. At worst, we may be revealing that we are not even a Christian. God’s Word says, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love [his brother] abides in death” (1 John 3:14, ESV). A mark of a true Christian is his love for other Christians. John says, if you do not love other Christians you are not a Christian. So, we must ask, can a person be a Christian if he does not love the brethren enough to be with them and enter into community with them? To love someone is to desire to be with them and involved in their lives. So you see, it is in the DNA of true believers to foster authentic community with other followers of Jesus.

What does such a community look like? Well, the early church helps picture it for us in Acts. Luke states in Acts 2:41-47:

41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.  42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  43And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (ESV).

 You can see that they were a pretty tight knit group and why the church grew daily. This is authentic community and the world is still craving it today, as it did then.

 As I mentioned this morning, we are given pictures of the church which highlight this idea of community. One is the body (1 Cor. 12:12-27; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:15-16; Col. 2:19). As the physical body, there is a built in inter-dependencein the church. Unity is necessary. The legs and the arms cannot separate from the body and do their own thing. The members of the body need each other.

The family is another metaphor for the church. Scripture refers to us as sons and daughters of God and brothers and sisters of one another (1 Tim. 5:1-2; 2 Cor. 6:18). So, like a family, we are to take care of each other’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. We are to encourage and love one another. This has got to start in nuclear families. The church needs to be a community that is family friendly and teaches the distinctive roles we each play in our families to bring glory to God (Eph. 5:22-6:4; Col 3:18-21; 1 Pet 3:1-7). Families, or as Scripture often calls them “households,” were the basic units of Christian community from which the church grew (Acts 11:14; 16:15, 31-33; 1 Cor. 1:16). So, as Christian households foster authentic community it will extend to the larger church family. In both our individual homes and larger church family we need to intentionally seek authentic community. This means there needs to be meaningful and purposeful interaction across generational lines. The teens in a church need the senior saints and vice versa. The singles need married folks and vice versa, and the middle-aged need widows and vice versa. The point is: church members need other members at different stages of life than themselves.

The church should not be a collection of separate subcultures cobbled together, but have little to no interaction with each other. I am not saying different age groups in the church have to do every activity together. But, there needs to be an intentional effort to connect with others out of our natural comfort zones. There needs to be intergenerational community. So, let me challenge everyone here. If you consider yourself younger, seek out relationships with those older than you. And, if you consider yourself older, seek out relationships with those younger than you. Bottom line: Do not be a bird who only flocks together with those of the same feather. Those who are younger hear your responsibility from 1 Peter 5:5: “You who are younger, be subject (or “submit”) to the elders” (ESV). And those of you who are older, hear your responsibility. If you are an older woman Titus 2:3-4 says to you: “3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,  4and so train the young women to love their husbands and children” (ESV). If you are an older man 2 Timothy 2:2 says to you: “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (ESV). Grant it, this verse does not specifically say older men are to disciple younger men. But, like older women teaching younger women, typically older Christian men should take younger Christian men under their wing and disciple them in the faith.

Whatever age category you are in: step out of your comfort zone and get involved in the lives of those in a different stage of life than you. The local church is to be a family which means we have to cross generational barriers. So, by God’s grace, may Grace Baptist Church be a church that is a real church for real people facing real hurts and real struggles Our goal is to mutually encourage one another in genuine Christian community and edification by accepting one another, forgiving one another, and providing soul care for one another.

 

10.  A Worshiping Church:  Corporate worship that focuses on God.

Worship is about God. The psalmist urges us: “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our maker” (Ps. 95:6, ESV). Worship is about glorifying God by enjoying Him. Worship satisfies the deepest longings of our hearts when it is all about God. Therefore, the local church should be God-centered in its worship. When we gather it should not be about human performance. It should be about standing in awe of our God and having His majesty wash over our dry souls. It should be about finding our ultimate pleasure in Him.

 Worship is such a huge area of discussion, because if understood properly it is not just about Sunday worship services. It is about a way of life 24/7 as individuals, as families, and as a church. Jesus said, “God is a spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24, ESV). There are no time categories in that verse. Worship is an ongoing activity for the believer.

The word “worship” comes from the Old English word “worthship.” In other words, “worship” means to ascribe supreme worth to God. In worship you are saying, “God you are worthy.”

 When examining Scripture, we see various characteristics of true worship come to the surface. For one, true worship is God-centered. Worship is about seeking to honor God. When we leave a service we should not ask, “What did I get out of the service?” Instead, we should ask, “How did I do in honoring the Lord?”

Also, true worship is Gospel-centered. In the Old Testament worship was centered on the Exodus event. In the New Testament it is centered on Jesus Christ, His atonement, His resurrection, and the promise of new life to believers.

True worship is Trinitarian, as well. God-centered worship is always worship in the name of Christ and by the Holy Spirit. Our worship should be clearly directed to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Further still, true worship is vertical and horizontal. It is vertical in that it is directed to our Triune God for His pleasure. And, it is horizontal in that it is for the edification of the saints.

Theologian D.A. Carson gives a good definition of worship. He writes:

Worship is the proper response of all moral, sentient beings to God, ascribing all honor and worth to their creator-God precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so. This side of the Fall, human worship of God properly responds to the redemptive provisions that God has graciously made. While all true worship is God-centered, Christian worship is no less Christ-centered. Empowered by the Spirit and in line with the stipulations of the new covenant, it manifests itself in all our living, finding its impulses in the gospel, which restores our relationship with our Redeemer-God and therefore also with our fellow image-bearers, our co-worshipers.[13]

By God’s grace, may Grace Baptist Church be a church that is God-centered in its worship on the Lord’s Day and every other day of the week. Our goal in corporate worship is to establish a pattern in our prayers, Scripture reading, observing the ordinances, singing, studying, teaching, preaching, and listening to preaching that draws attention to the glory of God’s grace. This corporate worship pattern then can be adapted and followed in individual and family worship throughout the week. 

 

11.  A Missions-Minded Church:  Missions that goes into all the world.

Closely tied to worship is missions. Pastor John Piper helps us on this point. He writes:

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church.  Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man….Worship therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God.[14]

God’s Word declares, “3Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!  4Let the nations be glad and sing for joy” (Ps. 67:3-4, ESV). Piper goes on to state:

The most passionate heart for God in all the universe is God’s heart. This truth, more than any other I know, seals the conviction that worship is the fuel and goal of missions. The deepest reason why our passion for God should fuel missions is that God’s passion for God fuels missions. Missions is the overflow of our delight in God because missions is the overflow of God’s delight in being God.” [15]

God has a missionary heart because God is consumed with glorifying and enjoying Himself. Thus, He wants the fame of His name being declared in all the earth that all peoples may glorify and enjoy Him. If we are enjoying God, missions will come naturally because we want others to experience the delight we find in God.

 God’s missionary heart is seen all throughout the Bible. “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son” (Gal 4:4, ESV). In a sense, we could say, “God the Father so loved the world He sent His Son to be a missionary” (John 3:16). Missions is God’s heartbeat and it ought to be ours as well.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the Great Commission starts off with the imperative “Go.”  The Great Commission is a great assumption. The natural assumption for the believer should be: “I am supposed to go.” That is the default mindset. So, we should not just think, “Well, being a missionary is something for others to consider, but not me.” No. We all need to wrestle with the clear command to go to the ends of the earth. And, we need to teach and raise our children under this assumption – “Go, unless God clearly tells you not to go.” Of course, the Lord does not call all of us to go. But, He does call all of us to be partners in the Gospel’s advance (Philp. 1:5). We are to partner passionately in our prayers, with our money, through volunteerism, missions projects, and going ourselves on short-term mission trips. So, by God’s grace, may Grace Baptist Church be a church that reaches, evangelizes, baptizes, and serves as many people around the world as possible, through the means of praying, giving, sending, and going unto the ends of the earth until Christ comes again.

 

12.  A Serving Church:  Mercy ministry that serves all peoples.

Serving others in need springs from a heart of gratitude.  Scripture says, “Serve [the LORD] faithfully with all your heart.  For consider what great thing He has done for you” (1 Sam. 12:24, ESV).  We are to serve other in mercy because of God’s mercy to us.

Such mercy ministry should start in the church. Paul urged the brethren in Galatia: “Brethren…through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13, NKJV). Similar he said to the church in Philippi:

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant” (Phil 2:4-7, NKJV).

How did Jesus think?  How are we to think toward other believers? We are to think and act like a servant toward the saints.

Yet, a servant-mindset should not just be limited toward other Christians. It should extend beyond the church to unbelievers in need, too. We are to minister mercy to all. We are called to be fishers of men. But, this call is not just a call to minister to people spiritually. We have to minister to their whole person –physically and emotionally, as well. Jesus makes this abundantly clear in Matthew 25:31-46. He says if we turn away the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the needy, the oppressed, the hurting, the sinful, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the widow, the orphan, and the prisoner it is like us turning Him away. Along these lines, Micah 6:8 declares, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (NKJV). Among other things, we are to be lovers of mercy.

The local church should be marked by mercy to others – fellow church members and the world. The true mark of character is when we give of ourselves to others who can give nothing to us in return. Indeed, this is not always easy. We sit in our padded seats, with our well-pressed clothes, full stomachs, and converse with people who are like us. But, the real question is: “What about serving the forgotten elderly in a nursing home, or the pregnant teenager, or the foul-mouthed prisoner or the hurting and marginalized in society?” Ministering to such people is radical ministry, because it is Christlike ministry.

Donald Whitney poses a strong challenge to us in the form of a wanted ad. He writes:

Wanted: Gifted volunteers for difficult service in the local expression of the Kingdom of God. Motivation to serve should be obedience to God, gratitude, gladness, forgiveness, humility, and love. Service will rarely be glorious. Temptation to quit place of service will sometimes be strong. Volunteers must be faithful in spite of long hours, little or no visible results, and possibly no recognition except from God in eternity.[16]

By God’s grace, may Grace Baptist Church be a church that places others before oneself inside and outside the church. Our aim is to be servant-hearted in our evangelism of the lost and in our edification of the saints.

Accomplishing the core values and vision I have mentioned today is like constructing a building. As I said this morning, Ephesians 2:20 describes the church as a building. God uses the church to build His church. People need to be encouraged to join God’s construction team (evangelism). And then, once joining the team, Christians need to be edified (told they can do the work of ministry), equipped (given the needed tools to construct for God), and exercise their work abilities (build up other believers and add new stones to God’s construction project).

The core values and vision I have unpacked today seem daunting. In reality, they are impossible for us to achieve in any measure by ourselves. But, by God’s amazing and energizing grace, He can enable and use us weak servants to make His glory known through this local church. By His grace, then, may Grace Baptist Church continue to grow towards being a Bible-preaching, Gospel-driven, evangelizing, disciple-making, committed, praying, gift-exercising, equipping, authentic, worshipping, missions-minded, and serving church.

[1]Aubrey Malphurs, Advanced Strategic Planning: A New Model for Church and Ministry Leaders (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999).

[2]Os Guinness, Dinning with the Devil: The Megachurch Movement Flirts with Modernity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 59.

[3]Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 21.

[4]C.J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life: Experiencing the Power of the Gospel (Portland: Multnomah, 2002), 20-21.

[5]Ibid., 75-76.  Also see Milton Vincent’s A Gospel Primer for Christians (Riverside, CA: Mission Reprographics, 2006).  This primer is a great tool in aiding the Christian in applying the Gospel to everyday life.

[6]C.H. Spurgeon, “Tearful Sowing and Joyful Reaping,” in Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1869; reprint, Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1970), vol. 15, 237.

[7]Robert E. Colemen, The Master Plan of Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1993), 27.

[8]Leroy Eims, The Lost Art of Disciple Making (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), 28.

[9]G. Eric Lane, I Want to Be A Church Member (Bryntirion, Wales: Evangelical Press of Wales, 1992), 21.

[10]Luther cited by John Blanchard, comp., Gathered Gold (Welwyn, Hertfordshire, England: Evangelical Press, 1984), 227.

[11]John Owen, as quoted in The Banner of Truth, August-September 1986, 58.

[12]A.T. Pierson, The New Acts of the Apostles (New York: The Baker & Taylor Co., 1894), 352ff.

[13]D.A. Carson Worship by the Book (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 26.

[14]John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker), 17.

[15]Ibid., 21.

[16]Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1991), 129.