Archives For local church

I long for a church…

Tim Brister —  May 10, 2014 — 1 Comment

“I long for a church that understands that it—the local church—is the chosen and best method of evangelism. I long for a church where the Christians are so in love with Jesus that when they go about the regular time of worship, they become an image of the gospel. I long for a church that disarms with love, not entertainment, and lives out countercultural confidence in the power of the gospel. I long for a church where the greatest celebrations happen over those who share their faith, and the heroes are those who risk their reputations to evangelize.

I yearn for a culture of evangelism with brothers and sisters whose backs are up to mine in the battle, where I’m taught and I teach about what it means to share our faith; and where I see leaders in the church leading people to Jesus. I want a church where you can point to changed lives, where you can see people stand up and say, ‘When I came to this church two years ago, I didn’t know God, but now I do!’ I long to be part of a culture of evangelism like that. I bet you do, too.”

– J. Mack Stiles, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus, 60-61.

 

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I Am a Church MemberWe live in a day where unfortunately it is hard to find committed churchmen (and women). I am talking about disciples of Jesus who build the rhythms of their lives around the local church and her mission in the world, who see the local body as the hub of their relationships and weave their identity intricately into their covenant community, who take the term “faith family” sincerely and live out its implications in everyday life. They are church members who don’t treat life in the body as optional, participation in the mission tangential, or recognized by others as nominal. They are faithful men and women committed to loving the church for which Jesus gave His life.

Last week at TGC13, I was given a copy of a new book by Thom Rainer entitled I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude That Makes a Difference.” Normally when I receive free books, publishers are clearing out inventory of titles not many people are buying (unless of course you come to one of my Band of Bloggers :)). But in this case, I became particularly interested in this little 75 page book because of its title (a slow reader like myself can finish this book in two hours).

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CovenantHealthy churches have explicit pre-commitments in what they believe (confession), how they live together (covenant), and how they are governed (constitution). Of course there is more that constitutes a healthy church, but I would argue it is critical from the outset that a church make clear these commitments based on the Word of God.

I’m grateful to belong to a covenant community seeking to honor the commitments we have made to one another. As a community formed by the gospel, we seek to live together as repenters and believers. This important to remember when it comes to living out our covenant commitments because no one of us grounds our identity based on our sanctification or our ability to keep those commitments perfectly. Even the commitments themselves speak to this. For instances, God commands that we forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven us. That assumes that we live in such proximate intimacy that we are going to sin against one another and be offended/hurt by one another (the Bible expects this). The proper response (which the Bible expects also) is to lovingly engage the one who has hurt/offended us and seek gospel reconciliation by making peace through repentance and forgiveness. Others include bearing one another’s burdens (context is addressing a sinning brother) and loving in ways that records of wrongdoings are not upheld and hoping all things at all times is applied.

This is important to remember because we are in danger of misunderstanding grace-based church covenant and making it into a condition-binding contract. In a church contract, when the conditions are not met by other members in our church community, you feel that you are justified in leaving that congregation in pursuit of a more perfect community. The irony to such a response is that such a response is a sinful reaction that dishonors the gospel. The person may feel justified in leaving because their feelings were hurt or was sinned against, but such justification has nothing to do with living in light of our justification by faith in Christ.

How many people have left their church family because they got upset with someone and could not do Scripture tells us to do? How many people have left because their feelings were hurt, the preacher stepped on their toes, another member failed to show sympathy and concern in a moment of crisis, and so on? How many churches were started not as a new work but as a sin-laden schism because blessed peacemaking seemed beyond the reach of those harboring resentment, fear of man, and self-pity?

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First of all, I want to say thanks to all of you who agreed to join in on these Monday discussions on church-related systems and processes (what I’m calling kingly administration).  We are all learners and laborers together for church health and gospel growth, and I believe our churches will be better served when we exhibit a kingdom-oriented posture of humbly receiving and generously giving to one another.  I probably do need to make this disclaimer in saying that I am NOT an expert on this stuff.  In fact, I don’t think I own or have read a book on the things we’re talking about (some of you should tune out now).  In any case, I hope to at least get the conversation going with the things I have been thinking and practicing in our own context.

The first area of emphasis that I want us to delve into is the assimilation process.  I want to conceptually lay out what I have been drafting and explain our practices in light of the bigger picture, which looks like this:

a.    Assimilation Process
b.    Membership Process
c.    Discipleship Process
d.    Leadership Development

When I came to Grace two years ago, one of the key objectives I was given was to develop the ministry design in a “simple church” structure that serves our purposes of being a Great Commission Church.  We are not a large church (membership of ~200 with ~300 in attendance), but over the past six months the need for an effective assimilation process has never been greater as we have seen many more visitors come since moving to two services (another topic to be addressed in the future).

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Take a Trip . . . to Your City

Tim Brister —  February 26, 2010 — 6 Comments

A couple nights ago, I shared with my Twitter friends about a strategy meeting where we are planning a mission trip to our city.  Yes, the city where most of our church members live.  Why, you might ask? Let me give you some reasons why I am compelled by this idea:

1. How many times have you heard of teams going to other cities to partake in service projects or community development where there is ministry to the poor and needy, urban revitalization, caring for children (especially orphans), and education to ethnic minorities?  If we can send teams to do missionary work in other cities to lend credibility to the church’s witness there, then why don’t we bless our own city in a similar way?

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Several of you will find these questions familiar, but their familiarity does not minimize the piercing factor for this pastor.  I wanted to put them out there in case others might find them helpful.

1.  If our church would cease to exist in our city, would it be noticed and missed?

2.  If all the pastors were tragically killed in a car accident, would the church’s ministry cease or fall apart?

3.  If the only possible means of connecting with unbelievers were through the missionary living of our church members, how much would we grow? (I ask this because the early church did not have signs, websites, ads, marketing, etc.)

4.  What are the subcultures within the church?  Do they attract or detract from the centrality of the gospel and mission of the church?

5.  Is our church known more for what we are not/against than what we are/for?

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I have argued for several years now that the greatest need for our churches today is the recovery of the gospel.  Some people have concluded that what I mean by that is everyone embracing the doctrines of grace; however, a casual observer of my blog could able to discern that is not the case.  What I mean is understanding the functional centrality of the gospel and its sufficiency in every aspect of the church.

I have become more and more aware of this need when I talk to, for instance, seminary-trained Christian counselors who have never heard or been trained in how to apply the gospel to situations in life involving believers and conflict of any sort or a leadership style that reflects more of corporate one-upmanship rather than the gospel style of decreasing to serve others.  I have grown up in the county-seat First Baptist Church and heard how the gospel of Matthew was a how-to manual to overcome stress, worry, fear, and so on and also been in the seeker-sensitive megachurch where the stories are gripping but the gospel missing.  I have been in the smaller, more rural church where the preacher is excited and earnest as in the tradition of revivalism but the gospel is reduced to a few points and a prayer.  Reflecting and experiencing these realities have served to increase the burden in my heart for the gospel to be preached, lived, and result in truly transformed lives.

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Leadership Retreat Feedback

Tim Brister —  September 5, 2009 — 1 Comment

This past week, the pastors of Grace hunkered down for three days for our leadership retreat.  Just a couple of days out of it, the meetings are still fresh on my mind.  I think we all agreed that it was really productive, but I also believe it can always improve and be done better.

I am convinced of the importance of such retreats for personal renewal, team building, ministry assessment, and vision casting (among others).  Conferences are good to aid in some of this, but they are no replacement for a retreat that deals directly and comprehensively on the local church and the men called to serve in a leadership capacity.

Below is the template I created and that we ran with this past week (I stripped it down to remove details).  I am providing it to get your thoughts, suggestions, examples, or any other ideas on this matter.  I want to serve my fellow pastors and church at large by helping us develop the best retreats possible in the future.  Any feedback you’d be willing to provide is great appreciated, and if you would care to share docs, you can email me at timmybrister[at]gmail[dot]com.

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Shortly after joining Twitter in June of last year, I began developing a social media strategy for the church I serve, Grace Baptist Church.  This strategy included redesigned our church website with a WordPress integrated blog to keep content current, a Facebook group, a church planting resource blog, and a church twitter account.

Over the past nine months, I have considered various ways in which twitter can be particularly helpful for the local church.  Relatively speaking, Grace Baptist is a small church, but that does not mean that we have to have a small impact.  For an illustration of how Twitter exponentially enlarges your internet “voice”, consider this 3-month chart:

gbc-twitter-3-month-graph

As you can see, we have gone from roughly 50 followers to over 400 in the last three months, most recently adding 100 new followers every three weeks.  I solely manage the church twitter stream and have updated it only updated it 191 times over eight the past nine months.  So what in particular do you tweet if you are representing your local church?  Here are some suggestions:

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5 P’s

Tim Brister —  April 16, 2009 — 3 Comments

Yesterday, I spent about an hour with Tom Ascol talking about the past ten months since I came on staff at Grace Baptist as an Associate Pastor.  At various points during this time, I intended to post some thoughts and reflections on things I’ve learned, challenges I’ve faced, and joys I’ve experienced transitioning from a seminary student working third-shift to a “full-time” minister in a local church (I think there are even some posts sitting in draft mode from several months ago!).

Some of my friends have encouraged me to talk more about what I am doing and learning in the ministry, so I thought I’d try to start doing that as I near my first year serving at Grace.  For starters, I want to mention a paradigm I created focusing on five “P’s” (I alliterate them to prove my true Baptist Identity for anyone checking my credentials).  Here they are with some of my thoughts.

1.  Preaching

The fundamental means of grace in the local church is the right preaching of the gospel.  With Tom preaching for the past 22 years strong, gospel-centered, expositional preaching, this is not a weak area of Grace.  However, preaching has been a weak area in my ministerial development, having done little in my seminary days.  When Tom was struck my lightning, I was thrown into the fire, from struggling to prepare for one sermon every two weeks to preaching Sunday morning and Sunday night as well as teaching an evangelism series to the adults and occasional Bible Study on Wednesday night.  Nevertheless, God used that to land me on my face with a sense of dependence and desperation I had not known.

Since June of last year, I think I’ve preached somewhere around 30 times, and every one of my messages have been critiqued by the elders as I have welcomed the constructive input to help me become a better communicator of God’s Word.  Various things like writing and preaching from a manuscript, length of message, pace and enunciation in delivery, thesis construction, coherence/clarity and simplicity, and pastoral application have all been addressed.  While I have a long way to go, I can honestly say that I have been tremendously helped by the feedback and follow-through of more experienced preachers who care enough to help me communicate the gospel message with passion, precision, and pastoral insight.

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