Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Church: Central in the Purposes and Plans of God

I began teaching a course in Pastoral Ministry yesterday, and throughout the semester I will post here in expanded outline form major arguments I develop for the class. These will not cover everything I discuss in class, but just the major arguments and points of contention. Our primary textbook is Pastoral Ministry, edited by John MacArthur. Much of the content comes from that source. Acknowledging that here, there will not be specific references to page numbers. Occasionally the pages are cited with the abbreviation MAC.

We began with a lecture on the biblical basis of pastoral ministry. The first major point was that the Church is central in the purposes and plans of God. Below is my teaching outline covering that point:

The Church’s Centrality in the Purposes of God

- The only institution Jesus promised to build and bless (Matt 16:18)

--- “Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

--- The church belongs to Jesus; He is the builder of it, and His plans for the church will not be thwarted by men or the forces of hell.

----- “When Christ says, ‘I will build my church,’ He isn’t just letting his followers in on His future plans. He’s giving the resolution to the relational catastrophe that occurred way back in the fall of man.” Dave Harvey, Rescuing Ambition (RA), 156.

- The gathering place of true worshipers (Php 3:3)

--- “We are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in  Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.”

- The church was purchased with the blood of Christ (Ac 20:28)

--- “The church of God which He purchased with His own blood

- The church is the realm of all true spiritual fellowship (Heb 10:22-25)

--- “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

- The church is the proclaimer and protector of divine truth (1 Tim 3:15)

--- “…the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”

- The church is the primary place of spiritual edification and growth (Eph 4:11-16)

--- “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

- The church is the launching pad for the global evangelization (Acts 1:8)

--- “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

- The church is the environment for the nurture and development of spiritual leaders (2 Tim 2:2)

--- “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

- Important realities for us to consider in our day

--- Increasing popularity of “spiritual” activities; declining interest in “organized religion” and “institutional churches”

--- Growing number of seminary graduates; decreasing number of those graduates entering pastoral ministry; opting instead for specialized roles in ever enlarging church staffs, parachurch organizations, and private spiritual enterprises

Many new churches are being planted, some on questionable foundations; Existing churches closing; many suffering from lack of leadership

--- If we are going to serve the Lord, we need to keep the Church central in our purposes and plans because it is central in the purpose and plans of God.

----- “God’s purpose for our ambition is connected to the local church. … Christ didn’t come just to save sinners; he came to build a community of saved sinners. … The satisfaction of individual ambition is linked to our collective identity as the people of God. The individual Christian simply cannot understand his purpose, and therefore his ambition, in purely individual terms.” RA 156, 157.

------- “Our sense of community has been largely lost, or maybe overwhelmed by the power of self. We’re a culture committed to self-fulfillment, self-expression, self-esteem, self-preservation—self, self, self. … The pursuit of self-spirituality—a highly personalized vision for religious quest—replaced the idea of Christianity in community.” RA 159

------- “Ambition for the church compels us to join our imperfect selves with other imperfect selves to form an imperfect community—all for the glory of God.” RA 161

--------- “Our ambition should be higher than crossing the finish line alone.” RA 170

----- “The church is ‘the pillar and foundation of the truth’ (1 Tim 3:15) in our world and the center of God’s redemptive activity. It’s the one human institution that will shine brightly throughout eternity.” RA 164

----- “The church is essential to the Christian, not because it brings him personal advancement or even inspiration, but because, with all its failures, it is an indispensable instrument for the redemption of the world.” Elton Trueblood

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