Week 3 | Membership Class


The command to guard the flock means that the elders must keep their minds on the church. They must be watchful and observant. They must be attentive at all times to the spiritual well-being of the people. They must watch for people who have wandered off from the flock or for new believers who are struggling to survive. They must constantly be alert to dangers from both outside the flock and from within it.
— Alexander Strauch

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Polity

Leadership

Purpose


The Purpose of the Church

Elder David Huffman

 

The local church is a temporary tool established by Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, for the expansion of the Kingdom of God!

 

The story of the Christian church is remarkable. It began with a handful of young disciples to become a global movement of a few billion people 2,000 years later! Just prior to his ascension, Jesus promised the Christians present, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

That promise was made to 120 people, and they took it to heart. You and I, and Redeemer Church are a result of that—we are here because they did indeed take their witness to the end of the earth.

The book of Acts describes the first accounts of the congregated church, and also records the growth and expansion of the congregated church into more churches. It is a popular book for church planters. It is popular for pastors. And, up until recently, if you were to ask me what the book of Acts is about, I would have said, “Its about the local church. The birth, growth and expansion of the church.” But, today, I'd suggest there's a bigger picture if we look closely:

 

After His great suffering and vindication, He showed His apostles that He was alive—appearing to them repeatedly over a period of 40 days, giving them many convincing proofs of His resurrection. As before, He spoke constantly of the kingdom of God.

— Acts 1:2-3

 

I.

The Kingdom of God

So right away we see something that jumps out: for 40 days, all Jesus talks about is "the Kingdom of God." That is kind of interesting isn’t it? Instead of giving instructions on how to organize a gathering, or structure a church government, or how to be more effective in their culture, and how to win friends and influence people... Jesus instead spoke for 40 days about the Kingdom of God.

In fact, the Kingdom is one of the most discussed topics in the entire New Testament—it's used over 100 different times in 16 different books throughout the New Testament! If Jesus says something once, listen. Two or three times, take it very seriously. But over 100 times, in 16 books? Good golly miss Molly....pay attention!

So, after Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days, He immediately goes to Capernaum and begins to preach what? Matthew 4:17 Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand!” So Jesus’s earthly ministry was bookended with talking about the kingdom of God.

The book of Acts also book also ends with the Kingdom of God. Acts closes with Paul talking for two years about the kingdom of God.

 

For two full years, he lived there in Rome, paying all his own expenses, receiving all who came to him. With great confidence and with no hindrance, he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the ultimate authority—the Lord Jesus, God’s Anointed, the Liberating King.

— Acts 28:30-31

So, Acts opens with the Kingdom of God, closes with the kingdom of God, and—in the middle—talks about the birth of the local church. How does that fit together? Here’s how: the local church is the gathering place to teach people about the King, to disciple them in Kingdom living, and to send them out to expand God’s kingdom to the ends of the earth.

In other words, the local church is a temporary tool established by Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, for the expansion of the Kingdom of God!

And what has happened is many have taken their eyes off the Kingdom of God, and focused them on the church. We have lost sight of the big picture, the Kingdom, which is why the church was born in the first place!

It's important for us, as we are studying the topic of "the church," to not lose sight of the big picture. The Big picture is not the church as an organization or entity—it's the reality of the Kingdom of God! That’s the big picture! The church is simply a tool established by Jesus, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, for the expansion of His Kingdom. It is His chosen method to make the Kingdom of God known everywhere throughout the earth.

Now, keeping in mind that the Kingdom of God is the overarching theme when discussing the purpose of the local church, let's look at a handful of images that Paul, and other New Testament authors, use to depict the local church.

 

II.

Biblical Images of the Church

The Bible explains the profound mystery of the church (Ephesians 5:32) using many different images and illustrations. Some of the most recognizable, and weighty, illustrations are the church as the building, the body, the bride, and the family of God:

  1. Building of Christ

    Christ is building his church and even the gates of Hell cannot prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). He is the CORNERSTONE (Matt 21:42; Acts 4:11; Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 2:6-7). And he promises he will complete the building he is making (Eph 2:21-22).

  2. Body of Christ

    Christ is the Head of the church which is his body (Eph 1:22-23; 4:15; 5:23). Each member serves a vital role within the Body (Rom 12:4-8 ; Eph 3:6 ; Ephesians 4:4-5;11-16)

  3. Bride of Christ

    Christ saves and sanctifices his people through his sacrifice on the cross, which serves as the model of the relationship between a husband and a wife (Eph 5:25). Christ’s self-sacrificial love for his bride continues as he feeds and cares for her and one day will be presented to him as a spotless bride (Eph 5:29; Heb 12:23)

  4. Family of God

    God’s adoption of the lost and unworthy children of wrath into his family is paramount (1 John 3:1-2). This adoption leads to astounding privileges of being fellow heirs with Christ. This household is indeed the church universal. As adopted Children of God, we believers are bound by familial relationships as brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers (1 Tim 5:2)

So, those are some commonly used and referenced images of the church. And as we move forward and looking at characteristics and advancing of the local church, you will see why.

 

III.

Characteristics of the Early Church

In Acts 42, we observe the first gathering of believers:

 

The community continually committed themselves to learning what the apostles taught them, gathering for fellowship, breaking bread, and praying.

Everyone felt a sense of awe because the apostles were doing many signs and wonders among them. There was an intense sense of togetherness among all who believed; they shared all their material possessions in trust.

They sold any possessions and goods that did not benefit the community and used the money to help everyone in need. They were unified as they worshiped at the temple day after day. In homes, they broke bread and shared meals with glad and generous hearts.

The new disciples praised God, and they enjoyed the goodwill of all the people of the city. Day after day the Lord added to their number everyone who was experiencing liberation.

— Acts 2:42-47

Now, there is argument as to the nature of the book of Acts in regards to literary genre. For instance, there are historical writings, poems, prescriptions, etc. that argue the book of Acts is prescriptive as to how church should be organized. However, there are others who argue it is only descriptive of what God did, and that we—today—don’t have to do church as it's depicted in Acts.

At Redeemer, we believe it's both. Acts is the first descriptive summary of the activities of the early church:

  1. Apostolic teaching;

  2. Fellowship;

  3. Breaking of bread;

  4. Prayer; and

  5. Giving and sharing of earthly possessions.

So, again—looking at the big picture—if the church is the tool by which the Kingdom of God is expanded, these initial characteristics are vital to the expansion as well! That's not to say the above are necessarily prescriptive: not every church has to practice the above; but, if the disciples who literally saw Jesus fly into the sky felt that these things were important enough to document, perhaps we should see them as vitally important as well.

Other characteristics of the early church also depicted in Acts include:

  1. Members met in homes and rented spaces (Acts 19:9-10; Romans 16:5);

  2. Members gathered together on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2);

  3. Members partook of the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:17-33);

  4. Members blessed one another with spiritual gifts (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:24-26); and

  5. The ministry was lead by a hierarchy of elders and deacons (Acts 6).

While I don’t think that everything here is necessarily prescriptive, it does seem that the Bible gives us a basic blueprint of ecclesiology, and yet there is still some freedom left in areas not mentioned. What you won't find is a blueprint on finance committees, children and youth ministries, or denominations. Those things aren’t bad at all—they're just not there.

In fact, some of those things are really valuable in our 21st century context. For example, a finance committee is a useful tool in our day and age because—unlike the early church—we have to give an account to our government on every cent that is given to the church, and to balance our expenses.

So, while there is a basic blueprint for some aspects of how the church can operate, there's also freedom for the local church leadership to decide how they can best leverage the resources they've been given to execute the purpose of the church: to expand the Kingdom.

 

IV.

Advancing the Church

Frankly, the early church was NOT perfect. How many times have you ever heard the phrase “We want to be an Acts 2 church?” That’s not a bad phrase so long as we remember that it was a group of imperfect people worshiping a perfect God. Not everything they did was amazing. But what they did developed deep roots for the church of God that lasted for 2000 years. God is still expanding His kingdom through the church.

42 AD Mark Goes to Egypt
49 AD Paul heads to Turkey
51 AD Paul heads to Greece
52 AD Thomas heads to India
54 AD Paul goes on a 3
rd missionary journey
174 AD first Christians reported in Austria
280 AD first rural churches emerge in Italy
(Urban movement til now: pagen (biblical word for redneck)
350 AD 31.7 Million Christian Romans (53%) of Roman Empire
432 AD Patrick Heads to Ireland
596 AD Gregory the great sends Augustine and team of Missionaries to England
635 AD the First Christian Missionaries arrive in China
740 AD Irish Monks reach Iceland
900 AD Missionaries reach Norway
1200 AD the Bible is now available in 22 different Languages
1498 AD First Christians reported in Kenya
1554 AD 1500 Converts reported in Thailand
1845 AD Leonard Destin settles in the Florida Panhandle
...
2015 AD Redeemer 30A launched by a small group of Christ followers in a local home

And so on... and so on... and so on.

All this is to show that God is doing exactly what He said He’d do. The Church has not slowed down or been killed out, oppressed out, murdered out, legislated out, pressed out, tortured out. Contrary to popular opinion, the Kingdom of God is thriving and advancing through local churches. Unfortunately the vast majority of them are just not here.

A book by a guy in the UN about the Christian Resurgence in the world takes the math of Christian growth and projects that in 2025 there will be 633 million Christians in Africa, 640 million in South America, and 460 million in Asia!

This is what's happening all over the world! And based largely off of my history of traveling worldwide, I am convinced that the reason for the gospel to be advancing in other countries is largely based on their commitment to and vision of the kingdom of God (big "C” Church), rather than isometric vision of little “c” church that is so commonplace in America and developed nations. We like to strategize and institutionalize.

1857 was the last great awakening on American soil! I pray that God brings an awakening of His Kingdom here that sweeps across the nation. Lord, let that begin in our hearts here at Redeemer.

 

V.

Redeemer 30A

So, what can you expect from Redeemer 30A in light of the Bible's definition of the purpose of the church, and its depiction of the early church?

  1. It is our hope and prayer that we are church about the KINGDOM first and foremost. NOTES

  2. It is our desire that we take our basic blueprint from Scripture. We want to be a church that is devoted to:

    • Learning God’s word

    • Fellowship

    • Breaking of Bread

    • Prayer

    • Giving

We also want to take into account an ecclesiological structure that is reflective of the context in which we live. For example, we will need finances.

That said, it is our prayer that we would be a church that advances the Kingdom of God both locally and globally.

 

A community of Christians each multiplying the gospel by going, baptizing, and teaching in the context where they live every day. Is anything else, according to the Bible, even considered a Church?

— David Platt, Radical

We may do things similar to what you are used to, and we may do it different. Please have grace with Josh and I as your leaders. Please pray for us and each other that we would be a people reflective of the early community that encourages and equips each other, even when faced with differences.

Nobody gets the church they want.

We all have preferences in regards to church. We all most likely have been a part of a church at some point, and we must realize that our preferences are directly linked to our experiences. We may have liked how a church did something, and we may have not liked other things. That means we may have preferences and presuppositions of what Redeemer should look like. But we must try and realize these presuppositions, and shelve those for the sake of God’s preferences. I have already had to shelve some desires and preferences that I had walking into Redeemer.

None of us can get the church we want; but, all of us can pray that the Lord gives us the church we need

Amen?


Explore Relevant Scriptures


 

Week 2 | Membership Class

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On the work of Christ the whole church rests. If you move faith from that centre, you have driven the nail into the Church’s coffin. The Church is then doomed to death, and it is only a matter of time when she shall expire.
— P.T. Forsyth

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The Cross

The Resurrection

The Trinity


Explore Relevant Scriptures


Week 1 | Membership Class

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But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
— 2 Timothy 3:14-17

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Membership Covenant

Meta-Narrative of Scripture

 

Vision and Values

 

Vision

To be a church that impacts the communities of Santa Rosa Beach with the good news of Jesus Christ.

 

Values

Here is what we wholeheartedly believe: this is an area that needs rescue. There are women, there are men, who are horribly lost, and the destination of their ‘lost-ness’ is terrible, hell itself. And this is only heightened by the all-out battle being waged by our spiritual enemy: Satan.

And so to walk into that arena, to walk into the spiritual war with Satan, sin, and self, there can only be one weapon, the good news of Jesus Christ. There is no other answer; there can be no other method. When we think about the plight of our world, there is but one solution: the person and work of Jesus Christ.

So if you want to know what we value here, if you want to be a part of this church, you want to know what the conversations look like, how we think about leadership, what we do with our money, why we organize people into Missional Communities, all of it is based on the story and victory of Jesus Christ.

The question is:

Is whatever we’re doing specifically tied to and furthering the work of the gospel of Jesus in our families, our church, our neighborhoods, and our workplaces?

And here’s what’s key: if it is not spreading the good news, then let’s not do it. Period.
Now, to be honest, sometimes answering that question can be a little gray. Therefore, right alongside our vision for the gospel to be the central identity marker of R30a, is the importance of prayer.

And so this has two corollaries:

  1. How can be center on the gospel when the church gathers?
  2. How can we center on the gospel when the church scatters?

 

When the Church Gathers

We promise to deliver Bible-based, expository preaching. The good news of Jesus is telling the whole story, telling the grand story, telling the story of God as told in the Bible. So we will always be in the Bible.


From Here On

 

Week 2 | April 17, 2016

We promise, the scriptures will always be our source for preaching, and nothing else. Though topical preaching has its place, we believe textual preaching must take priority. So could it be that we preach a topical sermon? Perhaps, but please know that the norm will be explicitly from passages in the Bible.

The Gospel on Sundays: We also center our Sunday morning services according to this same truth. You’ll see on Sunday that we rehearse, we re-live the gospel, through the songs we sing, the words we read, and the sermons we hear.

You will hear about the greatness of God, the sinfulness of humanity, the redemption that comes in Jesus, and you’ll experience his grace and Lordship at the Communion table, all while being equipped to go out into the world to make disciples. We not only believe in the theology of the Gospel, but we also believe in exercising it on a weekly basis with what we do on Sundays.

So that’s the gathered church, but what about when it’s not Sunday?

 

The Scattered Church

Hear us on this: The gospel’s destination is not Sunday mornings. It’s Tuesday afternoons at work, and Thursday morning runs in the neighborhood. It’s conversations you pray for at your kid’s soccer game, etc. We are here primarily for the lost. We have to get that in our brains. The church goes where it does because there are pagans in town. Your neighbor needs you. My neighbor needs me. Their eternity matters greatly to God.

Now the most wonderful news, like we heard today and like we will hear next week as well, is that God is the one who saves. He is the one who actually changes people. You and I are primarily examples of his transformative power.

But, scripture is also very clear that the message about Jesus comes directly from believers themselves. We are the prophets of this age. We are the ones who preach the truth to those who don’t want to hear it. That’s us. And so we have an imperative, which is to reach the lost in Santa Rosa Beach, to reach the lost on your street.

And the primary way we’re going to do this, the primary way we’re going to spread Jesus, the primary way we’re going to be the scattered people of God is through what many people call Missional Communities (MCs). Something that we’ve only introduced, and something that will require more time later. But for now, David give us a glimpse of what MCs are.

And so we do we summarize all of this? What do we call all of this? The answer is, this is the Christian life. This is what we call Discipleship. And here is a definition of discipleship that will work for us: A disciple is someone who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and joining in the mission of Jesus. All of these things that we’re talking about are under the umbrella of discipleship. We reach into our communities because that was the mission of Jesus, and it now becomes our mission.

We are all people who are following Jesus, we are being changed by the Holy Spirit, and discipleship now says that we join him in his work. That is what it means to be a Christian—not to just be called a Christian, but to be a Christian.

 

Week 3 | May 1, 2016

Membership is a covenant promise to live the gospel life, the disciple life, while being held responsible by fellow members to do so. Church membership is simply the covenant version of what it means to be a disciple. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the definition of a disciple and the definition of a church member are almost synonymous. That is, a disciple of Jesus follows Jesus, is changed by Jesus, and is joining Jesus on mission.

A member is a person who follows Jesus, is being changed by Jesus, and is joining Jesus on mission, but she or he is doing that in a local context. Discipleship is a concept; membership is implementing that concept. Discipleship is the big picture of what each of us is called to do wherever we are.

Membership is the application of that big picture where we are currently. The main difference is location: discipleship goes everywhere you go. Membership does not. It is local.

Therefore, R30a is asking you to be a member for this reason: to be a committed disciple of Jesus Christ in our specific local church and in our specific local area.

But as we see in the letters of Paul and all over the Bible, it’s not just the theology, it is also the expectation. We believe all of these things very deeply, and so after seeking counsel and leaning on the wisdom of those who’ve gone before us, we have created a small Membership Process, a training period to prepare, equip and explain what it means for you to be a member at Redeemer 30A.


 

The Meta-narrative of Scripture

The Good News

Read Elder Josh Pool's in-depth explanation of Redeemer 30A's conception of the Scriptures and the impact they should have on this church, on our individual lives as members, and on this community through the preaching of the Word with love and conviction.