Category Archives: Church

Standing Firm: Resolving Conflict As Kingdom Citizens


standing-firm-resolving-conflict-jpg-001

On January 30th, 1945, Company B, 15th Regiment, 3rd Infantry was attacked by a superior German force outside the city of Holdwihr, France.  Six tanks and 250 German infantry advanced on about 100 American soldiers.  The American force took heavy casualties, and First Lt. Audie Murphy ordered his troops to retreat to the nearby forest and take cover.  Murphy stood between his retreating troops and the German advance and emptied his machine gun.  Looking over he saw a 50 calibre machine gun on a burning tank, quickly he ran and jumped behind the 50 calibre and for the next hour laid down a withering barrage of fire that eventually pushed back the German advance.  For this heroic act, Audie Murphy was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest award for bravery.

Audie Murphy is remembered today, because in the face of overwhelming odds! In the midst of conflict he stood firm!

As we come to our text in Philippians 4:1-3, the church at Philippi is also under attack!  The church has three enemies: The world, the flesh and the devil himself.  We see throughout Paul’s letter the attack that this church is facing:

  • 1:28-30 – Persecution agains the church.
  • 2:2 – Disunity in the congregation
  • 3:18 – False teachers had slipped into the church.
  • 4:2-3 – And now there is a dispute between sisters in Christ that threatens the unity of the church!

Paul calls on the Philippians to Stand Firm in the middle of this spiritual warfare that raged around them and for them (I Cor 16:13, Eph. 6:11,13,14)!

Spiritual instability is a threat to every Christian because it leads to disappointment, doubt, discouragement and ineffective witness! This is a very real danger in Philippi and this is a very real danger here at Kitwe Church!

“Therefore” – Because we are citizens of heaven, pursuing Christlikeness we must Stand Firm!

Stand Firm!

  • Because you are a citizen of heaven (3:20)
  • Because He is coming back for His citizens (3:21)
  • Because His citizens should think like Christ – share the values of the Kingdom! (2:2,5)

So what does it look like to Stand Firm spiritually? Where do we find the power to Stand Firm in troubled times?

That is exactly what Paul is addressing in 4:1-9: “So stand fast in the Lord, Beloved.”   He exhorts believers to Stand Firm in the Lord:

  1. By living in harmony with your brothers and sisters in the Lord (2-3)
  2. By finding your joy in the Lord regardless of the present circumstances (4)
  3. By controlling your power to serve others – gentleness (5)
  4. By remembering that the Lord is always present (5b-6)
  5. By casting your burdens on the Lord with a thankful heart (6b)
  6. By guarding your mind with the peace of God (7)
  7. By saturating your mind with truth (2,8)

We will look at each of these seven instructions in the next couple of weeks, but today we want to focus in on the first one!  If we are to Stand Firm we must live in harmony with our brothers and sisters in the Lord!

THE PROBLEM of CONFLICT

Conflict happens among good people!

The identity of the people involved – Euodia & Syntche.

  • These ladies were church members, not outsiders. They were both serious Christians, they were sisters in Christ.
  • These ladies were not in conflict over a doctrinal matter or Paul would have corrected it and rebuked the one in error.
  • These ladies were prominent and well respected in the congregation.
  • Paul loved them both dearly – see his terms of endearment!
  • They both have faithfully served God
  • They both have been partners with Paul in gospel ministry.

Conflict is rooted in unbelief!

Conflict is rooted in a system of wrong beliefs. We assume that what we want is what we need and that it is up to us to defeat those who oppose us! This thinking is based on fear – but Apostle John tells us that “perfect love casts out fear!” (1Jn.4:18)

Conflict is fueled by pride. I read of a collision between two passenger ships in the Black Sea. In the summer of 1986, two ships collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia. Hundreds of passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below. News of the disaster was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. It wasn’t a technology problem like radar malfunction—or even thick fog. The cause was human stubbornness. Each captain was aware of the other ship’s presence nearby. Both could have steered clear, but according to news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield first. By the time they came to their senses, it was too late.

Conflict has damaging implications!

When faced with conflict there are two basic types of responses: Attack or Avoid!  When bullets fly and bombs explode there is a lot of damage that must be cleaned up when the conflict is over. After the Iraq war the US spent over $60b in reconstruction, and still the people do not have adequate services.

When you are embroiled in conflict with a brother or sister in Christ:

  • It says that some difference of opinion or some wrong done to you is more important to you than the advance of the gospel (1:12).
  • It destroys your testimony of being controlled by the love of God (Jn. 13:35).
    3. It beings disrepute on the church of Jesus Christ before a watching world (1 Cor. 6:6).
    4. It is a tool Satan can use to divide the church as people take sides in the dispute. Don’t let Satan get access to the amazing thing that God is doing among us! (2 Cor. 2:10-11)

Some of you have ancient arguments and hurts with others in this town or in this church. Old hurts, unresolved sins or wrongs and now you are a growing Christian, and God says, “STOP IT!” Humble yourself and make things right because the gospel is at stake! This is what citizens of the kingdom do, they reconcile.

How much worse is the damage of the conflict when it is Sister Euodia this side and Sister Syntyche on this other side! You must remember:

  • God is completing His good work in you! (1:6)
  • Your love is to be overflowing more and more! (1:9)
  • You are to conduct yourselves in a manner consistent with the gospel that saved you! Forgiveness & Forgiving!
  • Follow the example of Christ in your humble self-sacrifice obedience – you walk in unity with other Christians not for their sake, but for Christ’s sake! (2:8)
  • Your enemy is not your sister (or your brother) Your enemy is false teaching! Keep your eye on the ball!

THE SOLUTION to CONFLICT

The Plea

Agree with one another – reconcile with each other.

Forgiveness focuses on the offense, reconciliation focuses on the relationship! 100% restoration to harmony!

Forgiveness takes place in an instant, reconciliation takes time and effort to restore the broken relationship.

The basis for agreement – in the Lord! Our biggest need is to get right with the LORD – then we will be right with one another!

Get along with one another – don’t be proud! (Ro. 12:16-18). Work at getting along with everyone. Live in harmony (1 Cor. 1:10)! There must be no divisions in the church: no favorite preachers, no favorite people (cliques), no divisions along the line of ethnic similarities.

Getting along with one another brings joy! It is so pleasant when brothers dwell together in unity! (Ps.138:1).

The Help

Get involved – help these two ladies reconcile. The gospel is at stake! Help them accomplish 1:27 “as citizens of heaven conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel” by fighting together for a greater mission/purpose/cause.  We are fighting together for the faith of the gospel! We are fighting together, not fighting one another!

These two Christian ladies needed the help of the church to resolve the matter because:

  • They were not agreeing and resolving the matter by themselves.
  • Because the seriousness of their disagreements was threatening the stability of the congregation.
  • Because their disagreement could easily bring reproach on the gospel and the testimony of the church!

This help is a mark of spirituality. “You who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness…” (Gal.6:1) What is required if you are to help others reconcile?

  • Humility – willing to take a wrong for the greater cause!
  • Taking a risk – confronting in love, involvement for the purpose of reconciliation
  • Love – the same deep affection for others in the body of Christ! No one hates his own flesh! Assume the best! Be willing to forebear, It doesn’t have to be “my way.” (I Cor. 13:1-8)

The Motive

Their names are written in the Book of Life! You are eternally saved! You share the same life with the sister or brother who you are now in conflict with! God’s life! You will both share heaven one day because you are both citizens of His kingdom!

The Book of Life is important! Is your name written in it? (Rev. 20:12-15; Rev. 21:27)

So what now?

  1. Get involved – you who are spiritual get involved and help these folks to reconcile.
  2. Love fiercely – Paul loved these ladies and love this church family! Fervent love for others and Christ’s church will motivate you to get involved.
  3. Live in harmony in the Lord – Embrace the mind of Christ, and humbly obey Him in this matter! Get your focus off the offense and the offender and back onto the LORD!
    • Acknowledge the hurt
    • Forgive the offender
    • Reconcile the relationship – and do it for Christ’s sake!

The conflict between Euodia & Syntche reveals that even the most mature, faithful, and committed people can become so selfish and be embroiled in controversy if they are not diligent to maintain unity!  Living in unity in the fellowship of believers creates an environment of stability!

Stand Firm!

The People God Uses To Serve His Church


the-people-god-uses-jpg-001Today in our text Philippians 2:19-30, we see the people God uses to serve His church.

The context helps us understand the environment of the people Paul is writing to.  Paul is calling the Philippian Christians to behave as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ (1:27). Philippi was a Roman colony with a population of 10,000. It was considered a ‘Little Rome’ with allegience to the emperor. Philippi adopted Roman dress and spoke Latin. A Roman citizen took great care not to do anything that would bring shame to his ‘polis’ (city).  A citizen was one in good standing whose conduct brings honor to the political body to whom he belongs.

Paul’s point: If citizens of Philippi were so devoted to a human kingdom how much more should believers be devoted to a heavenly kingdom.

To live as worthy citizens is to live a life consistent with the revealed Word of God. To live a live consistent with the truth that Christians profess to believe, preach, teach and defend. The focus is the Gospel!

  • Live up to who you are!
  • Live up to who you represent!
  • Live up to the message your proclaim!

God is at work building His church. The church is the called-out assembly of New Testament believers. In the building of His Church God calls and uses people – people like you and me, and people like Timothy and Epaphroditus who we will meet in our text today.

What kind of people does God use to serve His church?

THEY ARE BROTHERS & SISTERS – Brother (19,25)

They individually have a relationship with God through saving faith. These were genuine Christians – they had come to recognize that they were a sinner, and they needed someone outside of themselves to deliver them from the guilt, and the power, and condemnation of God that sin brings

Let me illustrate this way: There is an organization called the FreeMasons – you may have heard of them? By joining this secret organization and going through the rites, you can move deeper into the brotherhood. Free Masonary calls “God “The Great Architect of the Universe.” This is the Freemason’s special name for God, because He is universal. He belongs to all men regardless of their religious persuasion. All wise men acknowledge His authority. In his private devotions a Mason will pray to Jehovah, Mohammed, Allah, Jesus, or the Deity of his choice. In a Masonic Lodge, however, the Mason will find the name of his Deity within the Great Architect of the Universe. Such syncretistic worship through prayer, coupled with specific teachings of salvation, is completely at odds with biblical Christianity.”

There is only one way that anyone and everyone can have a relationship with God – believe in Jesus Christ and trust Him for forgiveness! Jesus is the only way to God and no-one will come to heaven apart from coming through Him!

Because they share the same Spiritual Father (God) they have a relationship with one another
This was not a relationship based on physical similarities:  Paul was a Jew, former “Pharisee of Pharisees”, an OT scholar deeply trained in the Law of Moses (Torah) and the Talmud – the instruction book written by Hebrew scholars to guide people to not transgress the Torah. He was a bold, courageous pioneer for the gospel. (Acts 23:6, Phil. 3:5) Timothy was half-Jew. His mother had broken the Jewish culture and OT traditions by marrying a Gentile husband. This man was an unbeliever, he held to the pagan traditions of the day. His son Timothy was not circumcised, which to an orthodox OT believing Jew was a sign of being outside the covenant and condemned. His mother embraced genuine faith in Jesus, and eventually Timothy did as well. (Acts 16:1, 2 Ti. 1:4-5) Epaphroditus – only mentioned here in Philippians. His name is a common Greek name of the day. A Gentile believer in the church at Philippi. (25, 4:8)

The basis of this relationship is the fact that they shared the same nature as one another! The same Spirit of God dwelt inside them. The were obedient to the Father. God is their father, and they God’s children by faith in Christ thus they were brothers with one another! (2:3,7-8)

THEY ARE LABORERS – Co-Worker (25)

Gospel work is hard work! Hard, back-breaking labor! Sweat, attention, service, sacrifice! (Eph. 4:12, 2 Ti. 2:16)

Gospel work requires commitment and the willingness to sacrifice. Why would we give a deep level of effort and commitment to our own agenda, job, but fail to give God the same level of commitment?

Gospel work is shared work! It is not intended to be done by one! We are “laborers together with Christ” (4:2-3). Every member a minister – we all have a calling, not just the teaching pastor! Each of us have been granted gifts by God for the purpose of co-laboring, working together to accomplish God’s purposes.

THEY ARE WARRIORS – Fellow soldier (25)

We are engaged in a spiritual war. Our enemies: World, Flesh, Devil. Our warfare is spiritual not physical – “Stand against the wiles of the devil…” (Eph. 6:10-12)

  • We fight this battle together
  • We have each other’s back
  • We hold each other accountable
  • We hold each other up

THEY ARE PEOPLE OF CHARACTER (22)

Character is shaped by our relationship to Christ. Reputation is what you are supposed to be; Character is what you are. Your character is what God knows you to be. Your reputation is what men think you are. Reputation is what men say about you on your tombstone; Character is what angels say about you before the throne of God.

Our lives must manifest the transforming power of Christ.

“When church leadership fails morally and are restored to leadership in the church, when members lie, steal, cheat, gossip and fight. When members seem to care little about hypocrisy in their midst, the world is repulsed by the claims to love and serve God.” MacArthur

Character is proved in crisis! Your Character was revealed in how you responded to your last crisis. How did you react when:

  • Your computer crashed and you lost the last 30 min of work
  • Your spouse gets defensive when you share what bothers you.
  • You received a letter or email criticizing you
  • When someone cut in front of you in line or the line stretches out the door and the teller is inattentive.

Timothy was a man of tested character and his character was visible and viewable. Will you do what is right even when everyone else is doing wrong?

THEY ARE CARING (20b-21)

They had genuine concern for others, especially the family of God. This is a care that is not hypocritical. To be genuine means to be real! Sometimes we care and we don’t have an opportunity to do anything, but when we do have opportunity we demonstrate loving care!

This care is a result of caring for what God cares about. The opposite is to be self-serving, seeking their own advancement.  “They do not seek the things of Christ” – Compassion, care.

THEY ARE LIKE-MINDED (20a)

Genuine agreement in the faith. This is the plea that Paul makes to the Philippians throughout the letter – be of one mind. (1:27, 2:2-3; Eph. 4:1-6). Our source of agreement is found in the Word of God as we “strive together for the gospel.”

THEY ARE SERVANTS (7,26)

We serve God by serving one another. This is love in action, the humbling of our selves to serve the least, the underserving. The love that we have for Jesus Christ constrains us to this service. Jesus having loved his own He loved them to the end, arising from supper he took the basin and the towel and washed their feet. This was done as an example that we should do as He has done. They honestly consider others better than themselves and seek to serve them.

The result of being this kind of person is you become a source for encouragement and joy to God’s people (28b,29a). The church honors those who serve in this way (29)

Are you this kind of man or woman?  What areas do you need to address this week?

Today Marks Two Years Of Ministry For Kitwe Church!


Website Cover-01

Kitwe Church exists to glorify God by making gospel-centered, reproducing disciples of Jesus Christ.

Our identification as Christians is not national, ethnic or cultural, our identification is that we are children of the King. The church is the place where the world can see in microcosm what the Kingdom of God looks like.  People from every “tribe, tongue and nation” together in gospel unity for the purpose of bringing glory to God!

There are people in Kitwe and its environs who are not being targeted by any existing church. Some are Zambians who have been turned off by “the church” and have nothing to do with it. There are also people living in our city who are from Chinese, Indian, South American and European backgrounds who are effectively unreached by an intentional gospel witness.

Kitwe Church sprang from a burden to reach out to all of these groups with the gospel. In 2014 Philip Hunt family and the Nathan Washer family banded together with the blessings of Faith Baptist Church of Riverside to begin an evangelistic Bible study outreach. Kitwe Bible Study Fellowship held the first meeting on February 23, 2014 at the Polo Club next to the Agricultural Showgrounds in Kitwe. A small handful of unchurched people attended that first Bible study.

For the first three months an apologetics approach was taken that answered questions and arguments about Christianity. The remainder of the year was Bible studies from the Gospel of John explaining the deity of Christ and the need to submit to Him for salvation. During this same period the children were being taught a survey of the Bible using the various stories from Creation to the return of Christ.

A variety of people began to attend the study, and began to invite their friends and acquaintances. Visitors came to the study from Kitwe, Chingola, Mufulira and Chiliabombwe. Attendance grew during the first year from a handful to between 40-50 people each week.

In December 2014, the executive committee from the M.O.T.H.S Club in Parklands reached out and invited our Bible Study Fellowship to use their hall at no charge. The change in venue coincided with a spike in weekly attendance.

Jamie & Mandy Smith joined the leadership team in December 2014 and plans were made to transition the ministry from a Bible Study Fellowship to a church plant that would be known as Kitwe Church (www.kitwechurch.com). In early 2015 the Bible study transitioned from an informal Bible study to a more structured service format. A music team was organized and congregational singing was incorporated. Attendance continued to grow through the year with a high attendance in 2015 of 135 attendees. By the middle of 2015 Kitwe Church opened a bank account, began to collect offerings, instituted Small Group Bible Studies and began a monthly teen activity and Bible study.

Several people have professed faith in Jesus Christ, and in December 2015 the first baptism service was held with 9 persons following Christ in believer’s baptism. A series of messages were presented the second half of 2015 that dealt with all aspects of local church membership, structure and duties. During the last quarter of 2015 the Elders completed work on a doctrinal statement and adopted a Church Covenant, Mission Statement, Core Values and a Church Constitution.

The first Membership Orientation will be held the first three Sundays of March 2016 followed by a Chartering Service scheduled for Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016.

We are thankful for what God has done over the past two years and eagerly anticipate what He will continue to do in the years to come!  Our goal is to Know Truth, Love God & Serve Others! If you reside in the Kitwe area and do not have a church you call “home” please join us this Sunday!

Understanding Church Membership


Introduction:

We live in a country where it is fashionable and accepted to claim to be a Christian. Yet many who make that claim commit adultery, abandon their wives, get drunk, frequent the clubs, cheat their employers, engage in corrupt business, display out of control temper and  engage in slanderous speech.

Jesus warned that in the last days many would claim to be His followers. How does the world know who represents Jesus?  There is an abundance of false teachings in the name of Christ, there are many who live lives that do not match the holiness and character of God yet claim to be members of His body.

How does the world know who is true and who is false?  Who is really a Jesus follower.

There are many false religions teaching opposing things – How will the world know the truth, and how will they know who represents that truth to them?

The answer to these questions drives us to the heart of our topic for this evening: Understanding Church Membership

What is the church?

What the church is NOT: Popular misconceptions from our culture:

  1. The local church is not a club.  It is not a volunteer organization where membership is optional.
  2. The local church is not a service provider.  In a business the customer is always right. The church is not a service provider where the customer has all authority.
  3. The local church is not a support group. It is not just a friendly group of people who share an interest in Divine things and get together every week to talk about them.

What is the Church?

The church is referred to as a body (Ro12:4; ICo12:12-27), bride (2Co11:2; Eph5:24,32), building (1Co 3:9; 2Co6:16; Eph 2:20-22)

“A formally organized body of believers meeting to worship together.”

“A called out assembly of believers, meeting together in a particular location for the purpose of worship, and spiritual accountability.”

A local church is a group of Christians who regularly gather in Christ’s name to officially affirm and oversee one another’s membership in Jesus Christ and His kingdom through gospel preaching and gospel ordinances.” – Leehman

Wrong thinking about the church:

  • Christians can think it’s fine to attend a church indefinitely without joining;
  • Christians think of getting baptized apart from joining;
  • Christians take the Lord’s Supper without joining;
  • Christians view the Lord’s Supper as their own private, mystical experience for Christians and not as an activity for church members who are incorporated into body life together;
  • Christians don’t integrate their Monday-to-Saturday lives with the lives of other saints (p. 23).

Cause of wrong thinking about the church:

We assume that we have the autonomy and authority to conduct our Christian lives on our own.  We can include the church piece when and how we want.

The Authority of the local church

“The local church is the authority on earth that Jesus has instituted to officially affirm and give shape to my Christian life and yours.”  (p. 24).

The church is added to: Repent, Baptized.  Salvation and Identification with Christ. The place that this takes places is in the local church.

  1. Accept God’s grace in forgiving your sin by faith in Jesus Christ.
  2. Identify with & Submit to the body of Christ through baptism.

All Christians are to identify with and submit to a local church:

  1. Christians are commanded to submit to those in church leadership because they must give an account. (Heb 13:17)
  2. God calls specific elders to care for specific people (1Pt.5:1-5, Acts 20:29-30)
  3. Church is called to discipline sinning Christians. (1Co5:1-12).  Church discipline cannot work if local church membership doesn’t exist.  How do you put someone “out” if they were never “in”?

Just as the Bible establishes the government of your nation as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your citizenship in that nation, so the Bible establishes the local church as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your discipleship to Christ and your citizenship in Christ’s present and promised nation. (p. 25).

There is no example in Scripture of someone who truly believes yet does not identify with the body of Christ.  There is no spiritual free-agent unaccountable to a local church.

  1. It is through the church that the Christian lives out his faith by sharing Christ with others.
  2. Sacrificially giving to God through the church.
  3. The proclamation of the truth was entrusted to the local church
  4. The discipling and equipping of saints was entrusted to the local church.
  5. Providing accountability and discipline is entrusted to the church.

Membership In The Local Church

Definition of Church Membership:

“A formal relationship between a church and a Christian characterized by the church’s affirmation and oversight of a Christian’s discipleship and the Christian’s submission to living out his or her discipleship in the care of the church.”  – Leehman

Notice the elements that are present:

  1. A church body formally affirms an individual’s profession of faith and baptism as credible.
  2. It promises to give oversight to that individual’s discipleship.
  3. The individual formally submits his or her discipleship to the service and authority of this body and its leaders.

The church body says to the individual, “We recognize your profession of faith, baptism, and discipleship to Christ as valid. Therefore, we publicly affirm and acknowledge you as belonging to Christ and the oversight of our fellowship.” 

Principally, the individual says to the church body, “Insofar as I recognize you as a faithful, gospel-declaring church, I submit my presence and my discipleship to your love and oversight.” (pp. 64-65).

To not be a member of a church is like enjoying the benefits of a physical relationship without any of the commitments or responsibilities of marriage.  It is called adultery or prostitution.

Takers not givers – we are to be productive within the church giving our talents, skills, gifts so that the body will grow strong… too many people approach the church like a mosquito looking for something to take.

“When people ask, “Where is membership in the Bible?” the problem is they’re looking for something like a club to join, because the word membership is a club word. Clubs and political parties and labor unions have memberships. But you don’t often use the word membership in relation to governments and the citizens of nations. You don’t say, “So how’s the membership of the British nation doing? Aren’t you guys running, like, sixty million members these days?” 

The Church as an Embassy

Leeman suggests that the church can be viewed as an Embassy – you may go to the one in Lusaka or in South Africa but they each do the same thing – they affirm that you are a citizen of the USA.  I affirm the authority and responsibility to the one in Zambia and my friend might do the same with the one in RSA.  This is an example of my relationship with a member of the body of Christ who is joined to another church of life faith and practice.

Embassy represents one nation to another.  It represents the interests of it’s homeland to another nation and it affirms and protects its citizens living in that foreign land.

What the Church Does For A Christian:

We are pilgrims and sojourners on our way to Heaven.  Our identification is not national, ethnic or cultural, our identification is we are children of the King.  The church is the place where the world can see in microcosm what the Kingdom of God looks like – it is not that kingdom, but it represents and reveals it.  The citizens of Heaven live differently, look different and are passionately committed to spreading the good news about their loving Father King who will welcome all into His kingdom.

  1. The church affirms the citizens of Christ’s kingdom.
  2. The church protects the citizens of Christ’s kingdom.
  3. The church proclaims the laws of Christ’s kingdom.
  4. The church invites all peoples to come to bow and worship the king..

To be a church member is to be the church, at least a part of it. A church member, therefore, is someone who is formally recognized as a Christian and a part of Christ’s universal body. That’s not to say that churches always get it right, but it’s their job to identify and affirm who belongs to the kingdom and who does not.

A church member is a person who has been officially and publicly recognized as a Christian before the nations, as well as someone who shares in the same authority of officially affirming and overseeing other Christians in his or her church. (p. 29).

Conclusion

Christians don’t join churches; they submit to them. (p. 30).

Once you choose Christ, you must choose his people, too. It’s a package deal. Choose the Father and the Son and you have to choose the whole family—which you do through a local church.  (p. 31).

It’s true that a Christian must choose to join a church, but that does not make it a voluntary organization. We are, in fact, obligated to choose a local church just as we are obligated to choose Christ. Having chosen Christ, a Christian has no choice but to choose a church to join.  (p. 66).

————

1. This study is based upon the book: Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus Copyright © 2012 Jonathan Leeman Published by Crossway 1300 Crescent Street Wheaton, Illinois 60187.  Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.

2. http://www.brainyquote.com/words/ch/church143947.html

One Fellowship – The Fellowship of the Gospel


One Fellowship.001
Our text is taken today from Philippians 1:3-8.

We all live for something, each of us have a purpose in our life. Whether or not you could articulate what you are living for right now or not, doesn’t change the fact that it exists. When people share a common goal, there is a very high level of sacrifice, and a minimizing of self-centeredness… and in that moment, there is a camaraderie and joy that is inescapable!

My boys have a favorite movie: The Lord of the Rings.  This movie is based on the book by JRR Tolkien. In The Fellowship of the Ring, nine of the most unlikely characters come together bound by a single great mission to defeat the forces of darkness and save middle earth. Four hobbits led by Frodo Baggins, two warriors from Gondor, Gandalf the wizard, Legolas came from the race of elves and a dwarf named Gimili. In the end they gave themselves for one another and became honored friends.

Such earthly fellowship can happen when the conditions are right, but our text speaks of a depth of fellowship that exceeds any earthly fellowship.

We have been called dedicated our lives to Jesus Christ, abandoned to His glorious purposes among men! The proclamation of the gospel! We are engaged in what Bunyan called a “holy war” we march to the tune of a different drummer, we answer to the call of a different master. We are a band of brothers, consecrated to the grandest and noblest of causes – the carrying out of God’s eternal purposes in our world. We are ministers of the new covenant, proclaimers of freedom to those in bondage, soldiers of the cross! We will be opposed, we will suffer hardship, we will be required to give our all and for some of us very lives!

But brothers and sisters, it is worth it! In the midst of spiritual conflict there is a glorious fellowship to be enjoyed! In suffering and deprivation and hard work and opposition, there is a deep, blessed fellowship that cannot be understood by the world.

The world seeks to manufacture this wonder, but it cannot be reproduced in the disco house or the football stadium. The world longs to experience just a taste of this wonderful gift of fellowship, but they seek it in all the wrong places. We find that this fellowship can only be found as passionate disciples of Christ abandon themselves in partnerships of sacrifice and service to the gospel.

WHAT IS THE THE GOSPEL?

(http://www.lifein6words.com/connect-with-god/)

  • GOD CREATED US FOR FELLOWSHIP WITH HIM
  • OUR SINS SEPARATE US FROM GOD
  • SIN CANNOT BE REMOVED BY GOOD DEEDS
  • PAYING THE PRICE FOR SIN JESUS DIED AND ROSE AGAIN
  • EVERYONE WHO TRUSTS IN JESUS ALONE HAS ETERNAL LIFE
  • LIFE WITH JESUS STARTS NOW AND LASTS FOREVER

It is in the context of this “partnership of the gospel” that we experience joy, love and overwhelming thankfulness!  Notice how Paul describes this fellowship! Notice how this gospel ministry will affect our lives and our relationships with those we minister?

Verses 1-2: The Context

  • Preachers – Paul & Timothy- Paul is in prison in Rome awaiting trial.
  • Position – bondservants
  • People – saints / Bishops & Deacons
  • Place – Philippi. City in Europe, Roman colony. City of about 10,000. Paul had established the first church on the continent of Europe in @50AD. Now 10 years late he is writing this letter
  • Pronouncement – Grace & Peace, from God.

THIS IS A FELLOWSHIP THAT RESULTS IN A HEART OVERFLOWING WITH THANKSGIVING (3-4)

His Thankfulness For Them (3)

His thankfulness is stirred by his memory of them. In this personal letter Paul begins by telling them that every time he thinks of them from his prison cell he is filled with joyful thanksgiving to God that naturally translates into prayer for them. (3-4)

  • Paul remembers the first time he arrived in this city (Acts 16:7-10).
  • He recalls meeting outside the city walls by the river with a handful of gentile women who met there to worship God. He rejoiced in the conversion of Lydia and her household. (16:11-15)
  • He remembered the grief he felt when the demon-possessed girl prophesied that they were representatives of the true God and he cast the demon out of the girl. He recalled the uproar that occurred there in the Agora when her masters dragged them to the authorities and they were arrested and beaten and thrown in prison. (16:16-24)
  • Oh that glorious night – hearts aflame with love for God they loudly sang praises to God in the hearing of all the prisoners and God moved in to release them from their chains. The conversion of the jailer and his family! (16:25-34).
  • He thinks of these people who are now part of the persecuted church in Philippi and his heart is filled with joy and thankfulness to God!

His thankfulness is coupled with JOY (4)

Their joy (15x in the letter) was in the midst of affliction – (2 Cor. 8:1-2), and Paul’s joy was while in prison!. Joy is not based upon happenings (happiness) it is grounded internally.

The first lesson in this for us is this:  Joy is an attitude of the heart, not an emotion or a feeling. And the second lesson is: This joy is found outside yourself! Note that Paul points to the Lord as the source, Rejoice in the LORD (3:1, 4:4)

His thankfulness is expressed in PRAYER (4)

Paul rarely thanks God for stuff/things, he thanks God for people! Paul was a people person. He was not glorying in an achievement, a building or a program but in a people who were called by God’s name!

How much of your praying is giving thanks and how much is complaining

The Joy & Thankfulness that Paul is talking about is a direct result of receiving “grace and peace” from God (2).  If you have not partaken of His grace then you do not have peace with God.  If you do not have peace with God you cannot know this thankfulness and joy!

A FELLOWSHIP THAT IS CENTERED IN THE GOSPEL

Thankful for their Fellowship in the Gospel (5,7)

They were partners with Paul in the gospel! Fellowship (koinon) – lasting, committed fellowship. “From the first day until now.

“For your fellowship in the gospel.” This is a committed, lasting fellowship! It is the idea of people of very different cultures, Ideas, families, places in the world etc., having an indestructible bond, a oneness and unity that cannot be shaken. In all of our diversity we have one common goal, one common agenda, one common purpose, one common motivator… the Gospel of Grace (7b, (2 Cor 8:2-5)

  • They were committed to the evangelization of the Gentile world, to sharing the gospel with everyone who would listen.
  • They were committed to suffering and poverty for the sake of the gospel!
  • They were committed to giving selflessly to the cause of Jesus Christ!

The Philippians identified with him in his imprisonment for the gospel. This at a time of persecution when others fled from Him (7a).They also identified with him in his defense of the gospel (apologia). Apologetics refers to speech in defense of the gospel. (7b). And they identified with him in a positive confirmation of the truth of the gospel. (7c)

Their fellowship was:

  • A fellowship of Grace (7)

1John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

  • A fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2:1)
  • A fellowship of suffering (3:10)
  • A fellowship of Sacrifice (4:14-15)

This kind of fellowship is experienced as we serve God together. Last month many of us here at Kitwe Church came together to sing Christmas carols at the Mukuba Mall and to give out gospel tracts and New Testaments.  Remember the joy we had serving God together?  Remember the testimonies that many of you gave about what a blessing this was? We experience fellowship as we give ourselves to the gospel here and around the world!

The world seeks to find a means of experiencing this kind of fellowship – but they fail. This fellowship is for a cause that is greater than any selfish ambition, it is the emptying of self, the giving over of my dreams and aspirations for a common cause – the sake of the gospel. It is an absolute abandonment of brothers who partner together for the sake of His name to carry the glorious gospel to the shores of Morroco, the deserts of Somalia, the swamp villages of Sudan, the remote peoples of western Kenya, the villages of Northern province, the working class people of Kitwe, Zambia.

Confident in God’s Faithfulness (6)

Paul has a rock solid confidence in God. He who began it will complete it! What began with the acceptance of the gospel message preached by Paul in Philippi, continued until the present will be completed in the future. (“from the first day until now…”).

God will complete in every Christian what He has begun! (Acts 16:24) Nothing will prevent Him from completing His Work. He began a work of Grace at salvation, He will complete His work of Grace until the Day He comes again.

Don’t grow discouraged at your failures, Don’t forget that God will bring to reality the work of perfecting us, conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ.

I don’t have to control, I don’t have to worry and fret, I can confidently, joyfully, thankfully commit my ministry and those with whom I serve to Him who will finish what He has started! Ministry is not about YOU, it is not about ME! We are God’s chosen vessels to carry the gospel, to faithfully proclaim it, to plead with men to surrender their wills to the Savior. But it is all of GRACE! He calls them, He opens hearts, He saves men and women, boys and girls, and the One who calls and saves them will keep and complete them! OH JOY! What a cause for thanksgiving!

So what should you do now?
Will you commit to the “fellowship of the gospel” by joining in sacrificial service for God through the ministry of this church? Does not the grace of God lead you to such fellowship?

As you commit to God’s purposes you will know the thankful joy and love this fellowship brings.

Are you experiencing real joy – based upon your relationship to Jesus Christ and your fellowship in Him? Will you partake of the gospel today? You can be saved from your sin! You can have new life in Jesus Christ!

Role of Church Leadership – A Ministry of Service in the Church (Part 2)


Role of Church Leadership Pt2.001
As we approach the book of Acts we do well to remember that this is a narrative of what happened in the early days of the church.  As a record of history, the Book of Acts it contains doctrine, but it is not a book of doctrine.  I heard a preacher say recently, “Narrative is not normative,” and we do well to keep that in mind.

Today we are in Acts 6:1-7 taking a look at what took in the first church at Jerusalem.  There are lessons to be learned on the role of church leadership, lessons that apply to Kitwe Church.

The church is not an organization, it is a living organism!  An organization is a group of people who work together in an organized way for a shared purpose.  The church is not an organization!  The church is a living organism and as a living organism it is organized.

The church is a living body of which Christ is the head and every believer a member of His body.  The Holy Spirit of God indwells individual believers with the life of Christ.

Biblical church organization then is never an end in itself only the means to facilitate what the Lord is doing in His church. So let’s look at how the local church is organized.

God has appointed two offices in the church; the Office of Elder (also referred to as Overseer and Pastor/Shepherd) and the Office of Deacon.

The word deacon comes from the Greek word Diakonos and simply means servant.  It literally speaks of one who “waits on tables” as a server.  The word deacon is emphasizing the attitude of a servant.  Though the word deacon is not used in this text, it seems to be the first appointment of the office that would eventually be referred to as the Office of a Deacon.

THE PROBLEM IN THE CHURCH (1)

Why was the church was growing?
Because of preaching – day of Pentecost, preaching the gospel of Jesus resulted in 3000 salvation decisions, message at the Temple resulted in 5000 more people believing in Jesus (4:4).

Because the Holy Spirit gave power to those proclaiming the gospel, and brought conviction of sin to those who heard the message,

Because those who heard, responded in faith and received forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ

The church faced problems

Problem from the outside – persecution (ch. 4). This threatened the furtherance of the gospel when the rulers commanded them to be quiet and stop speaking in the name of Jesus! The response of the Apostles was to pray for boldness to continue to preach Christ.

Problem from the inside – sinning members (5:1-11). This problem threatened the credibility of the gospel of Jesus.  If Jesus doesn’t change lives then all the claims to the power of the gospel is in vain! The response was the disciplining of the offending members.

This bring us then to the third problem mentioned, a problem from the inside of the church – dissension among the members (6:1)

When you have people from 16 different countries and language groups come together as one in Christ, there are bound to be misunderstandings! (2:8-10)

The Hellenists were the Greek speaking Jews.  These Jews had migrated to other countries and had adapted to other cultures and adopted a language other than Hebrew.  They were seen as turning their back on the culture and traditions of the orthodox Jewish faith. The Hebrews were the Hebrew speaking Jews, and they looked with disdain at the Hellenists. This was a deep cultural animosity that threatened the unity of this new church!

Solomon once said that there is nothing new under the sun.  Don’t we see this same attitude in our day?  One people group look down on another people group because of differences in language, culture or traditions.  They feel superior to others, and of course all of this is based in pride.

The complaint that was brought to the church was legitimate!  The widows of the Hellenists were in fact being neglected. People were dissatisfied because genuine needs were not being met.

THE PROBLEM SOLVING STRATEGY OF THE CHURCH (2-4)

For a church to grow, there must be a plan – The plan is people

Why is planning needed in a growing church?

  • Because people and their needs are overlooked when there is no plan. There is much work to be carried out in a growing church, the widows needed to be cared for.
  • Because there are many legitimate needs among the membership of a growing church and it is not possibles for the pastors to meet all these needs. There are too many people with too many needs!
  • Because there is love that must be expressed.

The church must be organized to a level that ensures that ministry is being carried out in a meaningful way and that needs are being met.

Someone once said, “I don’t like organized religion.” Does that mean you prefer disorganized religion? We all have a part, we must all serve. If we are to function together and serve one another well there must be some plan in place.

What was the plan they enacted? (3)

  • They were to select competent people (deacons).
  • They were to be men (I Tim 3:1-2).
  • They were to be from among the congregation. These people were already “among” them. They were not to look for help from outside. Our commitment is to raise up leadership from within Kitwe Church. Both pastors and deacons.
  • They were to have a good reputation, testimony – outside the church and inside (I Tim 3.7-13)
  • They were to be spirit-filled men – exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5.22-23)
  • They were to be full of godly wisdom – they must have an understanding of God’s Word

For a church to grow there must be priorities (4)

Those chosen by God to serve the church must understand and fulfill their roles.

There are two full-time priorities of the pastors:

  • Ministry of the Word – preaching, teaching, studying (II Tim 4.2).
  • Prayer – bathe his messages in prayer, pray for his people.

These are the priority for the pastor because of the duties he is called to perform as a Shepherd.  John Stott suggests the following as the duties of a pastor:

  • He feeds the flock “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood*—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders.” Acts 20:28
  • He guides the flock – sheep tend to stray. “You must teach these things and encourage the believers to do them. You have the authority to correct them when necessary, so don’t let anyone disregard what you say.” Titus 2:15
  • He guards the flock – there are wolves out there. “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.” 1 Tim. 4:1
  • He heals the flock – many are wounded.

It is the carrying out of this priority that equips believers to accomplish the work of ministry (Eph. 4.12)

Deacons are assigned to carry out the necessary logistics of the church.  

The role of the deacons is to “wait on tables.”  Paul was concerned for that needs of the poor and widows be met (Ro. 15.26, II Co. 8-9) but he never wanted to be distracted from the ministry of the Word by the logistics of the service needing to be carried out (I Co. 16.1-4).

THE PROCEDURE THE CHURCH USED TO APPOINT DEACONS (5-6)

The church made the choice (5)

The congregation from among themselves chose men with the qualifications.

Congregational rule – the church decides on all matters of appointment of leadership, and affirms the expenditures of funds or goods to be used in the ministry.

The church brought the men before the church leadership (6a)

They set them before – used in reference to setting before judges. They were examined to see if they indeed fulfilled the qualifications

The chosen were ordained as deacons (6b)

They committed these men to the task before God in prayer. They laid hands on them – symbolizing the acknowledgment and commissioning to the work which they had been called. Symbolizes approval.

Let’s wrap this up by applying what we have seen to our church right here in Kitwe!  Note two applications that

First the result of this action was that the word of God spread like a fire across the city of Jerusalem!  Is that not what we long to see happen right here in Kitwe? To see people who are lost, found to see hurting hearts healed by the power and grace of God; to see those living in darkness rescued and brought to the light!

Second the number of disciples in Jerusalem multiplied.  When God is at work, and the Word is being taught, and people are stepping up to serve the Lord, the church grows! The true church is something that is so different and beautiful that it is attractive!

So here is our plan between now and the end of the year at Kitwe Church:

  • Baptism service – for all who have been saved but not yet who biblically baptized.
  • Charter the church according to the laws of Zambia – we will ask those wishing to join Kitwe Church as official members to sign up.
  • From those who come into membership we will ask the congregation to suggest to the elders the men they wish to serve as deacons for our church.

My prayer is that you will come to faith in Jesus Christ if you are still contemplating the invitation of Christ to salvation!  Please accept God’s full and free forgiveness of your sin by receiving Christ right now!

For those who know Jesus Christ and have seen the beautiful work of His Spirit in your heart, commit to serving your Lord this week, to obeying Him in all things.

May God’s richest blessings be yours.

Download the sermons or stream online at the following links:

Role of Church Leadership Part 1

Role of Church Leadership Part 2

Download the pdf version Role of Church Leadershop Pt2

Role of Church Leadership – A Ministry of Service in the Church (Part 1)


Role of Church Leadership.001

There are many prevailing ideas about the church today. If we were to ask what comes to your mind when you hear the word “church” we would likely get a variety of answers depending upon your exposure, background and childhood.

Some people view the church in light of liturgy and traditions. Some think of people wearing special clothes and referring to people as Pope, Priests, or Bishops.

Others think of the church in terms of dead orthodoxy. The honest assessment is that church is absolutely boring. What a crime – to bore people with the living Word of God!

Still others see the church as a place to get rich at the expense of the church members!This view is especially prevalent in our society – ministers tell parishioners that it is God’s will for you to be healthy, wealthy and successful. Nothing could actually be further from the truth of the New Testament.

These are people who view God as an heavenly Bellboy. Like those well dressed Bellmen waiting to open doors and carry your bags at a high priced hotel, God is viewed waiting around to serve man. In actual fact the opposite is true! We were created to serve God, not the other way around.
Is it any wonder that many people today view the church as being an organization of hypocrites.

The Church is actually none of the above!

The Church is the Body of Christ. He is the head we are “members of His body”

Eph.5:25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.* 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body.

In our relationship with one another in the body we are called upon to serve each other.

Gal. 5:3 Through Love, serve one another!

There are not any “big people” and “little people” in the church. We are all just redeemed sinners on a journey together to heaven! We share a unity with one another that is not centered on a ball or a bottle or a business deal or a cultural back ground but that we share the life of Jesus!

The church is not an organization, it is a living organism!

  • As a living organism it is organized.
  • As a living organism it has life.

Biblical church organization is always a response to the needs of the body.

Biblical church organization is never an end in itself only the means to facilitate what the Lord is doing in His church.

There are two offices in a New Testament church. Search through the NT and you will not find mention mention of priests in reference to church leadership. To find a priest you will need to go to the Old Testament where the priest represented God to the people, he offered sacrifices in the temple.

There are two offices:

Office of Elder – there are three biblical terms applied to the same office. Consider these Scriptures in relation to this office:

  • Episkopos -is interpreted as Overseer, or Bishop.  It speaks of the responsibility the pastor has for the spiritual well-being of the church.

Titus 1:7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach.

  • Presbuteros – speaks of the authority, to teach and rule.

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

  • Poimen – is simply to Shepherd, to lead a flock, to guide and provide.

1 Peter 5:2-3 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Office of Deacon:

Diakonos – Minister and emphasizes the attitude of a servant. Literally it means to wait tables.

Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:

In our text in Acts 6:1-7 we find that the first church in Jerusalem was facing a problem that threatened this new congregation.

THE PROBLEM IN THE CHURCH (1)

Problems are Satan’s tactics to destroy the church. Satan is never happy when the gospel is being proclaimed! God was at work, thousands have repented of their sins and placed faith in Jesus.

The first problem: Persecution from outside (4)

The reason: 3000 saved on Pentecost, 5000 men saved and added to the church in Acts 4.4; Believers are being discipled (2.42) and Satan is not going to take that lying down!

The result: Apostles arrested and threatened not to speak in Jesus’ name (4.2-3,21).

Their response: They prayed and asked for boldness to continue to preach (4.29-30).

And the result? Multitudes of disciples were added to the church! (4.32)

Sin from the inside (5:1-11)

In this account we find that a couple wanted to impress the congregation by giving a large financial gift to the church. They were free to give what they wanted, but they chose to lie and say that they were giving all the proceeds from the sale of property when in fact they were keeping a part of the proceeds.

Their Response: The church elders confronted them with their sin and God killed the hypocrites! Wow, imagine if that were to happen to hypocrites in the church today!

What was the result? Multitudes were added to the church (5.14)!

Now we see the third problem: Dissension among the membership (6.1)

When you have people from 16 different countries and language groups come together as one in Christ, there are bound to be misunderstandings! (2:8-11)

Hellenists – Jews who had been dispersed among the nations and had lost much of their ethnic identity, they only spoke Greek.

Hebrews were Jews from Jerusalem who spoke Hebrew. The Pharisees held Hellenists in contempt. This was a deep cultural animosity between the Hebrews and the Hellenists in the culture, and this cultural animosity threatened the unity of this new church!

Church was growing, disciples were multiplying! Possibly 20,000 by this time. Church growth presents new challenges.

The problem was that people were dissatisfied because their needs were not being met. Widows of the Hellenists were being neglected, while the widows of the Hebrews were being cared for. God cares for the widows, and so must the church! (I Timothy 5.3)

So we will pick up the story and lessons from here next week.

Listen or Download mp3: Role of Church Leadership – A Ministry of Service in the Church (Part 1)