Friday, November 30, 2007

Sacrificing Church for the Family

As I previously wrote on the grievous error of sacrificing family for church I am now going to deal with the other end of the pendulum swing, that of sacrificing the church for the family.  When I speak of the church here I am referring to the local church or what is also often known as the visible church.  While I know there are those that see no call for people to be part of a local church I am not here going to explain that this is not the biblical example as I think I have done this more than once before.  Here the issue deals with more a matter of saying that the question of the family and the church is not an either/or issues but a both/and one.

I have been reading a sermon by Matthew Henry that has been edited by Scott Brown called: A Church in the House.  In this sermon Matthew Henry is arguing for the act of family worship and equates a church in the house.  But in doing this Henry makes sure it is understood that just because he refers to family worship as being a church in the house it does not negate our duty to assemble as a local body of believers.  In actuality both gatherings will benefit the other as the family worship will ready our hearts for the local gathering and the local gathering will prepare us for worship at home.

I think the basic reason that some may see little or very limited importance in the local church comes from a lack of seeing its importance in scripture.  As I read scripture it quickly becomes apparent that what is written by God through men is addressed to local congregations and dealing with the issues that those people were facing.  In the midst of this one also sees how the writers so often relate to the family of believers as sources of hope and encouragement.

I have been studying and preaching through Hebrews and even here in this letter/sermon that is often known as the New Testament commentary on the Old you see the importance of the local community of faith.  As the author works his way through the book he continually speaks of the other Hebrew believers being important for the perseverance of the other saints around them.  Examples in Hebrews are such as in Heb 3:12-14 which begins by warning the Hebrews to ”take care” and this waring is such that implies that they care for not only themselves but each other.  Then in V13 there is a call to exhort each other on a continual basis to help in the avoidance of the effects of sin.  Even in 4:11 we see that as a group they are exhorted by the writer to strive to enter the future rest or persevere.  This is just a small sample but there are more and this is just in Hebrews.

So the point in all of this is that while the family is God’s design for His people the church is equally important for His people. Thus the issues is that one needs to be involved in both family worship and the local church.  The church should not do those things that are injurious to the family such as having so many programs that there is little time for family.  On the flip side the family should not see the local church as a burden but a place for us to joyfully come to exhort, encourage and when needed admonish other believers that are committed to that local church.

My prayer is that these two extremes I have written on are examples that we can avoid.   The goal in all of this is to use all of the means that God uses to build His people such as through both the family and the church.  Thus let us find time in our increasingly busy days for both family and church and neglect neither.  This is not a call to spend X amount of time in either as that would truly be legalistic but instead to simply make sure that neither is minimizing the other but that each instead maximizes our spiritual growth. 

Around the Web and Blogosphere (11/30/07)

This has sure been a busy week. I have been meaning to write on a couple things but the time just hass not been there. So for now here are some items I have come across this week in a quick look at the Web and various blogs.

With regards to the Building Bridges: Southern Baptists and Calvinism Conference this last week (Nov 26-28) in North Carolina you can get the free MP3s of the conference at the Lifeway site. You can also read Tom Ascol’s comments on the Founders Blog.

At the Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog there is an interview by Pastor David Charles of Dr. James Renihan, Academic Dean of Reformed Baptist studies at Westminster Seminary in California who has recently edited a recent book entitled TRUE CONFESSIONS - Baptist documents in the Reformed Family.

If you are looking for a new Christmas CD, it actually came out last year, you may want to get a copy of Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man from Sovereign Grace Ministries. It is a great CD that has theologically sound lyrics as well as great music. While I do like many of the traditional Christmas songs this is one of my favorite CD’s as you will find it is one you can play all year long. You can also download one free song from the site as well: Glory Be to God.

James McDonald has a good blog post at his Family Reformation blog entitled: Family Reformation and the Modern Work Schedule. This is one of those areas that many fathers that are seeking to care for their families as God desires them to have to struggle with.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Around the Web and Blogosphere (11/23/07)

We recently watched the new DVD “Return of the Daughters” and it is very good. I am sure it will step on some toes but sometimes it is good to have them stepped on. The truth is that many of the things we all to readily do are not biblical and we have allowed the culture to dictate our interpretation of God’s desires rather than do what God requires. I would highly recommend this DVD and ask that you would watch it with scripture in mind rather than preconceived biases. You can see other info onthe DVD at .

A great list of things to be thankful for from Steve Camp: Thanks Be To God for His "Unspeakable Gift"

Here is a good post on being thankful from Pastor Paul McDonald: Being Thankful

Here is a good article that looks at the Pilgrims and the Puritans from A Puritans Mind: Reformation for the Glory of God, What is the difference between a Pilgrim and Puritan? Thanks to Jim at for linking to this article.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Sacrifice of the Family for Ministry

I had hesitated to write this blog post as I did not want to be negative.  However as I look around the blog world and read the numerous people worried about the apparent shrinkage of the western church and the lamenting over the various reasons for the shrinking number of baptisms and proclamations of faith I had a change of heart.  This change revolves around one area that the church, at least from my vantage point, neglects to deal with that may be a contributing factor to the anemic nature of the church in changing the world.  I do not say this is the only factor but simply that it is one of many possible factors.

The area I speak of is the number of people in ministry that sacrifice their families for the cause of the ministry they are in.  As there is little data that I have seen relating to this issue the observations to follow are simply based on my personal observations.  By the way, I also think there is an issue at the opposite end of the pendulum and I will deal with that later.

Often I have seen families of pastors and others in ministry less discipled by their own fathers than others in the church those fathers serve.  The usual reason, or should I say excuse, is that there are souls being lost and this is of utmost importance.  The problem with this statement is that we are called to reach the world and make disciples and this includes our families.  If we, and I am often guilty of this as a pastor, cannot disciple our families how can we ever think we should be discipling others.  One example of a result of this is the popular and often true moniker of one being a PK (Pastors kid) as an excuse for certain behaviors or attitudes, how sad it is that this name even exits.  Yes ministry takes time and effort and often sacrifice but it does not call for the sacrifice of ones family.  I do not say that there may not be a season where there is a mutual sacrifice that the entire family is apart of but it is not to be the norm.

This issue may stem from a lack of seriousness taken with the position of Pastor needing to fulfill the requirements given in 1 Timothy 3:1- for Elders.  In this passage there is a call to mange ones household well and this does not mean simply supply the funds for food and other necessities.  Since the managing of the house is tied to managing the flock one is to shepherd (1 Tim 3:5) it is easy to see that there is an intimate relation between how the church is to be shepherded and the family.  Thus if the family is not shepherded then how are we as pastors to be expected to shepherd the flock God puts before us.  If we truly raise PK’s we need to step down and deal with our own families and not return to the ministry until this issue is dealt with. 

This is not to say that pastor’s families are going to be perfect but my experience is that many of the problems that pastor’s families have are not such that happen overnight but are the result of neglect at the altar of doing ministry.  If you, as I need to constantly do myself, are spending more time in ministry than with your family you may need to reassess your priorities based on God’s call for us to care for our families.  Also, keep in mind the care of the family is the responsibility of the father and thus is unacceptable to simply say that ones wife is taking care of things so we can do ministry.  Again, there may be times that this is done for the short term but it cannot be the norm or we are not managing our family as we are called to and thus disqualifying ourselves from ministry.

If I am sounding a little harsh it is simply because I have seen this for too long and myself have been dragged into this.  While this issue is the responsibility of the Pastor/Elder the congregation is often a contributing factor by expecting so much from the Pastor and instead of doing more themselves they contribute to the sacrifice of the pastor’s family.   Another area that this issue shows up is in those in ministry that have secular jobs.  Often Pastors who may or may not have worked in the secular world do not truly understand the workload a bivocational minister has and thus may simply not see the ministerial load being as much as it is.   Many are afraid to say no and the end result is that the family is the first to suffer.  This is not to say that those working in the secular world are not to be part of ministry but it will be significantly less than say the Pastors role.

In all of this is the role of mentoring and if a pastor is seen as sacrificing the family what message is sent to the congregation?  If the world sees the church minimizing the family for ministry then will they not themselves see the family as being less important than say their vocation.  How can a pastor that spends little time with their family expect those in their congregation to do differently.  If we as church members see the pastor spending inordinate amounts of time in ministry why is it a surprise that they themselves do not do the same in their vocation.

I pray that all that I have touched on in some way convicts, as it does to me as I write it.  But conviction is nothing if change does not ensue.  The world is constantly minimizing the family and when the church does the same, starting with the pastor, it becomes anemic.  We as pastors need to re-evaluate our ministry and lives.  We as congregation members need to re-evaluate what we expect from our leaders.  For the church to be the change agent it is called to be we need to be different from the world and since scripture calls it’s leaders to lead their families lets start there. We can evangelize all we like but if we lose our families are we really glorifying God?

Next, I will touch on the other end of the pendulum in that all that I have said is not an excuse to not be part of ministry and part of a church community.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Family Integrated Conference 2007 – Session 2

Minstering to Families - Matt Bullen

This is my second installment of a review and comments on the Family Integrated Church Conference held in Houston October 26-27 and put on by Grace Family Baptist Church. The first session was entitled Calling Men to Lead by Paul Renfro and you can read it here. The second session was entitled Ministering to Families and was delivered by Matt Bullen. Of all of the Pastors at GfBC Matt is the one I know the best as I have spent hours at his home and many e-mails conversing over issues related to church and the start of the church I am part of, Sovereign Grace Christian Fellowship.

Matt’s focus at Grace is pastoral care and assimilation and it is easy to see that this is his passion. But he not only serves in this capacity but also preaches on a regular basis as the three elders share the preaching responsibilities. Matt is also a construction superintendent as well as speaking at various conferences but over all this in my time with Matt it is easy to see that his great focus on God and his family.

Mat spoke of the Why and the How of Ministering to families. This in reality covers two areas; that is the ministering to other families and the ministering to our own families with the goal being to lead other families to do the same. The Why seems so simple but is often neglected and that is the simple fact that within our families we can have a generational impact that can be hard to measure. Yes we need to reach outside our immediate family but often we reach outside at the expence of our families and the results are evident in how many youth leave the church within a year of leaving home. By ministering to our families, and teaching others to do the same, we have an impact that extends not only to the next generation but multiple generations after that. So Matt’s call and in reality scriptures call is to minister to families so as to disciple them to minister to their own families and then others. This is not a call to become a small cloister and avoid those in the world but instead to start where God has put us, in families, and then move out from there as a family.

The next subject was that of the How to Minister to Families and Matt used 1 Peter 5:1-3 to reveal three aspects of this: Ministering, Mentoring and Modeling. The Ministering we see in 1 Peter 5:2a by shepherding the flock God has placed in and leading others to do the same. This shows a need to be ministering to families so as to lead them to do the same which takes involvement and just as the Shepherd needs to know his flock so do we the families that we are discipling. This aspect of ministry takes time and effort because the world we live in today does not easily allow for community to be built up within a church. The fine line in this endeavor is that of creating community but not at the expence of the time families need to spend together on their own. Too often churches that claim to be family friendly actually splinter families by both segregation and time depletion. The goal of ministering to families is to do enough to create community while still fostering families that are healthy by God’s standards.

The second aspect is that of mentoring or as 1 Peter 5:2b says “oversight.” This is the area where a family or families mentor others in what God has revealed to them about God’s plan for the family. This is done through being together and hospitality of which small groups and simply eating together are some of the ways to do this. Again there needs to be care taken so as not to use up so much time the mentoree has no time to practice what they are being mentored in. Mentoring can also include various other resources such as books and such. This also shows the need to see that Ministering to Families takes work and it needs to be intentional so as not to simple take up time. Things such as that seen in Titus 2:1-8 are examples of this mentoring going on.

The last aspect is that of modeling or as 1 Peter 5;3 says being an “example.” Our families need to be examples to those we minister to so that they can see God’s work in us to show them what God does desire and what He can do. It is not enough simply to teach and tell but people need to see God’s word in action as god intends His word to be lived out in our daily lives and not just on Sunday. As the old adage goes often much more is caught than taught and modeling builds on the teaching or mentoring that has been done.

So with the church there needs to be a conscious effort to Minister, Mentor and Model God’s design for the family. In doing this we help succeeding generations pass on the same plan of God for the family. This should not really be that difficult of a task, although it often is, as we should simply be seeking to live out in the presence of others what God has called us to be as families.

Around the Web and Blogosphere (11/13/07)

Check out this video on Fide-O: John Hagee Has Lost His Mind. I had seen this before but if this is what he really believes then there is a big problem. Personally this is his faulty eschatology driving his view of Christ and trying to find a way out for Israel’s, like so many others, rejection of Christ.

Mark Dever speaks on the church and relevancy: Dever cautions about 'relevant' mindset

Tom Ascol writes on: Restoring health to an unhealthy church: What is the goal?

Over at the Reformed Baptist Fellowship: How to be Content with Your Stuff

Clcik below to enter this months giveaway:
November Giveaway

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Around the Web and Blogosphere (11/6/07)

Over at Fide-O blog there is a post called that has a video (Here) from a Christians United for Israel Conference. It is always interesting to see who shows up in these videos and what they say.

John Piper’s new book: The Future of Justification has been released. If you want the paper version you can get it here but it is also available to be accessed in PDF format from here. Also on the Desiring God site is a book that was taken from the 2006 National Conference: The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World ($5 until this Friday). This can also access an online PDF version from here.

Scott Brown in his blog: Youth Ministry Gone Insane links to an article from called Reaching Young People at all Costs?, and what a cost.

Over at These are the Generations of…. Scott gives a review of a new DVD entitled “Monstrous Regiment.” This is a powerful DVD that deals with feminism and lets many from the opposing side speak for themselves in their words and attitudes. The DVD Monstrous Regiment is put out by the Gunn Brothers .

Novembers Giveaway

Here is this month’s giveaway at

First prize: The first prize winner will take home One copy of The ESV Listener’s Bible on CD (as read by Max McLean) and one copy of Classics of the Christian Faith CD collection. The retail value of this prize is over $180.

Second prize: One copy of Classics of the Christian Faith CD collection.

Third Prize: One copy of Classics of the Christian Faith CD collection.

Click on the banner below or here: November Giveaway

November Giveaway

This Months FREE audio download

There is another great FREE download at You can download Jonathan Edward’s The Religious Affections (unabridged) for the month of November for free. If you do not have an account it is relatively painless and well worth setting up as most months the free offering is very good. Enjoy!

Monday, November 05, 2007

GfBC Family Integrated Conference 2007 – Session 1

Calling Men to Lead – Paul Renfro

I meant to get this done some earlier but things just got in the way. So here is an overview from my notes of the first session of the FIC Conference in Houston (10/26-27). This is not a word for word look but a combination of what Paul said and how I heard it. When one listens at a conference it is not enough to simply be able to regurgitate what was said but we must be able to make it our own so that it can be used as God leads each of us.

The first session on Friday (10/26) was lead by Paul Renfro who is one Grace Family Baptist Church’s elders. The call was that the men need to lead as God has called them to lead and not simply talk about it. This in not simply a call for men to claim leadership or take positions, which is only part of it, but to actually lead in all areas of church life and home life. Paul mentioned that all too often the call for men to lead is proclaimed but men are not biblically trained to do so. A specific short coming of this lack of training men to lead is in the area of the home where men have abdicated leadership to the state and their wives.

Ever since the garden where Adam stood by and watched Eve talk to the serpent man has fallen short in leadership. This lack of leadership starts in the home where fathers in general do not lead, in a biblical manner. Men may try and have dominion over the home but true leadership is about relationship and that is severely lacking in so many homes, even Christian ones, where men are often excessively absent. Paul talked about the idea that we as men need to see that true teaching takes relationships and that we have assumed the Greek model of teaching which is more about information. While instead we should seek out scriptures methods which will inevitably lead us to a more Hebrew method of teaching which involves living with those we teach such as home. So it becomes easy to see how if we seek to have biblical homes we then naturally have the perfect set up for a Hebrew model of discipling our families. If we seek to live out Deuteronomy 6 we will be led to truly lead our families as God intended and as a church we need to train towards this end.

As a side note this issue of family leadership is also a big problem with those in ministry. The truth is that if men were held to the leadership standards of scripture many would be disqualified as they would not be managing their households as God desires them to be led. I hear and see, all too often, men claiming they are doing ministry while they loose their own families. I know for me this is a struggle being bi-vocational in that I take care not to neglect my family in the name of serving God. While I often fail I have to be vigilant to seek God’s power to persevere in this area. We as servants of God can not claim to be doing God’s work if we loose the families God has given us to lead. That is why God in His call for elders calls men to lead their families well and not well by man’s standards but by God’s

Paul spoke of how often the church tries everything but what God’s word tells us to do when we seek to train those we minister to. This is where he used a saying (not sure if it is original from him or not but I will use it myself) that so speaks to the church today and that is simply that we need to “stop thinking outside the box and think inside the book.” As the church shrinks and we loose so many of our youth we try and do everything but what God’s word says and that is train up men to lead as the scriptures call them to lead. We as a church need to, for scriptural reasons, seek to bring men back to the potion of the leaders in first their families and then the church as God has called them to be.

Paul ended by giving a practical list of things men can do in their homes with regard to their families. He put these in a three areas Prophet, Priest and King (or Provider and Protector):

1) Teach the word of God
2) Provide discipline
3) Disciple in all areas of life
4) Lead Family worship
5) Intercede for family needs
6) Proclaim Christ
7) Protect; Spiritually, physically, etc.
8) Protect from unqualified life partners
9) Protection from false doctrines
10) Protect them from loving the world
11) Provide Vision for the Family
12) Provide for spiritual and physical needs
13) Provide training in many areas
14) Provide a paradigm for our children’s vision for their homes
15) Provide guidance for finding a life partner, be involved in the process

Paul related in a great way God’s call for men to lead. This was not GfBC or Paul Renfro’s call but God’s call and we as believing men need to take heed of His call.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Nooma should be MEma

I just struggled through watching Rob Bell’s new Nooma DVD (#18:Name) and I am thinking that the series needs to be renamed MEma as the focus is not on God but on ME. Yes there is truth in the DVD; that we do all too often focus on wanting to be like others and not wanting to be who we are. However, the message is simply psychobabble that we are to learn to be comfortable and accepting of who we are. Yes there is a level where this may be true but at the end of the day we are to seek to be who God calls us to be and that is the message of scripture.

Rob Bell is not alone in proclaiming messages that turn scripture into stories about us rather than about God. He uses the story of Jacob wrestling with God to say at the end of the day Jacob had to simply accept who he was. But Bell stops short, actually as he mentions the sun rising (Gen 32:31) he skips over, because in the passage God changes Jacob’s name to Israel (Gen 32:28). So the whole premise of accepting who you are, your name, is out the window because God changes who He was just as He did with Abram to Abraham and Saul to Paul. We are to seek to be who God wants us to be and we see in scripture that people do not stay as they were but are changed by God to be who He wants them to be and to be used as He wants to use us.

While watching the video my impression was, as the names on the back of the t-shirts flash by, that no matter who you are that is who you are and you need to simply accept it, in Bells words (best I can remember) “good, bad and everything in-between”. But since when we become a believer we are a new creation and the old is changed are we not new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17)? Yes we have a past that we have to deal with but God changes us so that we are not to stay who we are but are to be who God calls us to be and that design is revealed in scripture.

In all of this production there was no call to deny oneself and take up a cross (Matt 16:24) it was all about feeling good about yourself. That is the essence of psychology but then again the video starts out with a story about someone that is in therapy so I guess at least he is consistent. The sad par t in all of this is that many churches get sucked into this sort of man centered theology as the message seems right but as scripture says we all too often seek after what tickles our ears (2 Tim 4:3) or as Judges ends in Jdg 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” For too many King Jesus is not their King so they do what seems right to them.

If you want to preview this it is free here.