Governing Principles in Church Work
By Pastor-Missionary David Cox
For example, we do not allow our teens to invite other teens to our teen outings. That is because transportation is a problem for us living in Mexico City, but the real reason is because everybody almost in Mexico City CAN GET AROUND by public transportation. A parent comes and drops off their kids for the first time visit to our church in one of these teen outings, and the teen gets frustrated that we are “preaching to him”, so he takes off without telling anybody, and gets the metro back home. The leaders don’t know where he is, and he won’t answer his phone (being mad at us), and when they get back to the church, there is an irrate parent there wanting to know what happened to their teen, and we have no answers, nor do we know where the teen is.
The point of this is to realize that churches work as an organization (even though they can be argued to be an organism, yea I know). But when policy is made and followed, there is order. People know what to expect, and although I am fully aware and break policy sometimes, good policies usually don’t have to be broken.
I think so many problem churches (with internal strife and in-fighting) could do themselves a great favor if the people would stop everything, sit down, and think through what they are doing and how they are doing it. Scratch everything off the table even preaching, teaching, praying, and witnessing, and just “start over”. Go through everything people “normally” do in church, and compare everything against the light of Scripture. Ask yourself real serious questions, and don’t assume anything without doing a lot of exposition of Scripture to defend what you are doing.
- Should we witness to other people?
- If yes, how and when should we witness?
- Who (among us) should be doing it?
- How often should it be done?
- Where should it be done? (locally, on the mission field, here in the US besides where we are, etc.)
- What is valid witnessing?
- What is biblical witnessing?
For the last two I want to elaborate somewhat.
What is valid witnessing?
Is any time a Christian is out in public “valid witnessing”? I mean is it really witnessing to go sing a Christmas carol in the mall? Everybody of every religion (it would seem) does it also, and not all of them are really saved! The Mormon Tabernacle Boys Choir does it a lot better than your church or my church, so they are the best at it? But they are a cult!
So we need to disengage this silly “automatic” idea that any kind of witness is a valid witness. You can put a sign in your yard and around the town saying “Jesus”, or “Jesus loves you”, and that is not really witnessing. You need to sit down, read through the New Testament and find out how they witnessed, and what were the commands (mandates) given to us?
From this we see that a valid witness must contain an unadulterated plan of salvation presentation, and it must NOT BE SHORTENED to be just a nod. For example, “Jesus loves you” could be considered to be at the heart of the gospel, but I do not think anybody is saved who has not recognized and dealt with their sins. After all, (meditating long and hard on these things), salvation IS FROM SIN. If you miss that point, you are not saved.
So there are minimums in what is a valid witness. Tracts are good to leave around for unsaved people to read, and I have written some 350 Spanish tract titles that we have available in the back of our church, but it burns me and frustrates me greatly when somebody gives unsaved Catholics one of my tracts on church polity, like qualifications for deacons. This is stupid. Sorry. But it is stupid. You give a salvation tract to an unsaved person. You can give a tract on divorce to an unsaved person going through it, but that will not solve their problem, only dealing with their need of a Savior will change their life and life situation around so that they will get out of their divorce problem by living like an example of Christ.
What is biblical witnessing?
Biblical witnessing is the presentation of the plan of salvation (called the gospel in the Bible) in such a way that it is clear, as brief as possible, and is given with great earnestness and passion as to pursuade men to come to Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ IS THE ONLY WAY A PERSON WILL BE SAVED, so there are obstacles that must be overcome to develop this faith in a person. An argumentative person is not showing faith. So at a quick point in the presentation, it is better to turn from witnessing to stop just arguing, and walk off and find somebody who is wanting to be saved from their sins. We waste so much time with people who are not interested in what we have to say. If you can motivate them into being interested in salvation, great do it, but if not, cut it short. Pray for the person. Shake the dust off your feet and go to the next person (what Jesus commanded us to do).
Unbiblical witnessing might be trying to force a person to repeat a prayer after you. So many people who present the plan of salvation (those people are rare dinosaurs anyway these days) just don’t respond to what the person is saying and showing by their actions and desires. We cannot pressure a person to do something that will get them saved. This is against saved by grace, not of works. Understanding what religion the person is at present, and attacking those foundational beliefs is all important.
General Church Government Rules
I think that every pastor should be thinking and making rules of how he does what he does, and why. For example, somebody leaves your church and requests a church transfer letter. What is the procedure for doing this? Do we give them the third degree, asking all kinds of questions? Do we scandalize the person revealing personal information because “he has abandoned us”? There should be clear principles in the church leadership’s head on how to proceed, and what not to do.
In general, these rules or principles should start to develop a biblical philosophy of the ministry.
For example, churches get involved with programs of all sorts, and everything that comes “down the pike” that calls itself a ministry, most churches seem willing to dedicate personnel, prayer, and money to it. But is that wise? Should we not spend the majority of God’s money on the most important of God’s priorities?
I like teaching churches. Christian universities have fallen “out of favor” with me. The reason for that is that they draw up unreasonable amounts of God’s people’s money (millions and millions of dollars in buildings, and salaries) when they do very little more than what a good church’s educational program can do for free. I have seen churches start biblical institutes, and fund it with very little money in their facilities, and do a tremendous amount of educating with very little. Some of these programs are high quality, low cost. That would seem to me to be the best “bang for the buck” for the Lord’s money.
Why don’t we pass over good things and wait for the most excellent things? It is because we are lazy and impatient, wanting to throw off our responsibilities in the first thing that will allievate our guilty conscience.
God’s a Genius
Did you know that God is great, tremendous genius? He is the smartest genius that the universe has ever known, and people just don’t understand how great of a genius he is. But God, in all of his genius, did not tell us to start colleges and universities, but local churches. Most people fail horribly at accepting God’s will such as he gives it to us. We reject it because “it is not very good for us”. We all know that is a lie. God’s will is the best and the only best, the only good even, will or way out there. So why do people reject it? This is because Satan has puffed up the ego of most Christians (and especially the unsaved) to think that they can come up with some plan for their life that is “just as good” or even better than God’s will.
When we fully believe that God is a genius, and that he has planned things to the best way that they can possibly be, then we will not out of hand reject God’s way. We will accept it when he reveals it, and moreover we will seek that way. But this is our issue with God, we actually think that we can come up with a good viable plan, and that a person can live well now and eternally with ideas and ways in their life that is not exactly God’s full will.
This is not an either or situation for them, but one of grades and shades. In other words, “God’s will is the best”, okay I accept that if you really have to beat me with it. But my ideas and ways are also very good, and right up there with God’s way. Not proven by theory, nor by example, nor by experience. So why is your own hair-b rained ideas “better” than God’s will? How do you figure things will go well with you if you side-step God’s will for something else?
While all this is bad for a Christian, it is even worse when we follow that line of logic in “how and what” we do in the ministry. This is exactly what churches are doing. They have a yearly block party, invite the neighbors, and give them free food, and sometimes even a fair atmosphere. But the gospel presentation is at best weak, very short so that they can blink and miss it, and it is totally lost in the activities of the day. The time of sitting down the unsaved in an evangelistic sermon that lasts for an hour or two has been given up totally. The reason that “doesn’t work anymore” (it does work if you know how to do it right) is because we have caved in on the how and actual what of ministry, and we give unsaved people what they want, a weak, powerless, unoffensive church. The church is not led by principles, and at that, not led by biblical principles in what they do and how they do it. I would note that some churches that use block parties have only that alone as they evangelistic outreach for the entire year. The reality is that they DON’T EVANGELIZE, and they don’t even know how to do it. To sit down and present the plan of salvation without some goofy program wrapped around it is like impossible for them. That is the problem. No program will fix that. Only by going back to the Bible, and getting our content (doctrine and practice) and getting our methodology for ministry from Scripture will we fix this right.
What do we actually, really “want” in that of discipleship? Most churches don’t even do anything really towards disciple. Of those that have a firm discipleship “program” in place, it is a simple class of a few numbers of class sessions and a book. But the church is all about discipleship. Jesus had disciples. Jesus made disciples. Jesus and the early church discipled their people.
Discipleship is the “bringing along side” of other people who get saved in that ministry to do that ministry. This precludes a very clear and definited idea of ministry in the people for this to happen, and the leadership is constantly and fervently working towards this idea.
What principles should we employee at the church level so that disciple happens the way it did in the Bible? First of all, the church should refrain from employing (i.e. “using”) new people until they have been tested and proved. So many churches offer positions of ministry (Sunday School teacher, deacon, board member) to rich and apparently powerful people “sight unseen”. They don’t know if these are good Christians or not, but because a person has a year model car and owns a business and “looks rich”, or even maybe he really is rich, they put that person into the position of power and influence within the church. This is wrong. And policies should be in place in the church, essentially understood and observed by the leaders and pastor also, that any new person is not to be put into any position within the church until they have a proven life before the church people. This means attendance, tithing, support of the church’s essential programs. Why not wait until they willingly go on evangelism before they are considered? Short answer there is because 95% to 100% of the people of a typical church would be disqualified from office. Maybe that is where we should go with this placing of people in church positions. Moreover, prayer is even more important of an essential requirement, and that too is glossed over as “non-essential” and “non-important”.
This is the problem with churches. What we obviously see in Scripture as God’s way, we gloss over and do some other way because we don’t believe in the power of God really.
More Posts on Church
- Things that ruin a Church: People
- Things that ruin a Church: Events that Decay pt 2
- Things that ruin a Church: Events that Decay pt 1
- Things that ruin a Church: Qualities that Destroy
- Church Advertisement that Works
- Changing Membership in the Local Church
- Satan’s Useful Idiots
- Getting People to faithfully integrate
Pastor David Cox is a missionary. See my ministry updates here.