A Personal Assessment for Church Focus in 2015

By Devin Maddox

"Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war." -Proverbs 20:18

Introduction

I can't speak for everyone, but I feel like most people go through the New Year's celebrations and recollect the past year and look forward to the new one while examining their own conduct and searching for some resolution to make.

I don't want to encourage any specific resolution, but I do want to share my thoughts and concerns with you all as we go into this next year. I hope what I have to say is a comfort to you and provide a way of getting to know us better as we press forward in our church planting mission.

Long Term Vision

I would like to speak briefly on something that we previously discussed so that we might all have a better understanding as to what was meant and intended.

I have made the statement, "We are looking at a multi-generational goal in planting this church", or I might have stated it, "we are involved in a long term multi-generational plan to reform the home, church, and society for the glory of God".  I want to give a better explanation as to what that actually means for us now.

First, we all have limited time on earth and our days are numbered, so it is obvious that we can only do so much in this life. Therefore, we have to decide what it is that we are going to do for the glory of God with the life and number of days He has given us. I had to ask myself this several years ago as I was confronted with reformed theology, particularly as I started to reject Dispensationalism.

What am I supposed to do? My country, our homes, the church are all in a mess. There is unfaithfulness, corruption, and heresy. What do I do about it? Pray? Get involved in politics? Become a revolutionary? Become a preacher? Yes, as funny as that order appears, that was the progression.

I decided the best answer was to be a good husband to my wife, a good father to my children, and a servant in the church, and if possible, a Christian citizen that can make a difference in bringing about true reform to society.

When I was a younger Christian, I thought of myself as a future Martin Luther, a future Patrick Henry, a future father of children that would become great ministers, reformers, and culture transformers in a time when revival is desperately needed. I wanted people to look back on my life and see a noble knight, a defender of the faith, a patriarch of godly posterity.

While these are good aspirations and I believe that we need to aim high, yet these goals were more dreamy than realistic. We are taught in Romans 12:3, "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." And after it is explained that we all have a part in the body of Christ it is stated in vs. 6, "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them..."

So, I have learned that I need to examine myself and my abilities according to the measure of faith given unto me and the work of God's grace in my life. This is sober judgment and realistic assessment.

Also, I am warned in Matthew 23:12, "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."

Therefore, we need to be aware that we can have our own agenda in the church that would seem righteous, but if it is not with a self-examining heart and humility before God, than it is a vain glory.  But having stated that, when we think soberly about ourselves and are able to come to proper conclusions about our abilities, we should act with faith and do the work that is set before us. Notice vs. 6 from above, "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them..."

"Let us use them..." This is where I can defeat my depression from my failing aspirations of my younger life.  Whatever it is that God has given me the ability to do I am allowed and commanded to do it. And it doesn't have to be something of profound historical importance in the eyes of men either. It doesn't have to be the modern equivalent of nailing the 95 Theses of Contention on the chapel doors. As a matter of fact, it can be as simple as walking through the chapel doors every Sunday with the right attitude to worship God and love the saints!

I must return to the original thought of the multi-generational vision for the Church. I don't want this to be misunderstood. I don't want there to be fear of being left behind. When we talk about this concept we are talking about first laying the foundations and getting rooted in doctrine and practice. So what is the imagery here? It is on the ground. The construction workers that build the foundation walls work on the ground and their pants are muddy, their knees are worn, and they usually have a trowel ready to spread the mortar.  It doesn't have anything to do with the outward appearance of the house. It doesn't have anything to do with the amenities within the house, but this important work, if done right, will mean the house will stand for several generations.

Also, when we talk about laying foundations and taking our time we are talking about not rushing through it and leaving holes or uneven spots in this important endeavor. If the foundation has holes it will succumb to water damage and crumble. If it is uneven it will cause the rest of the house to have slant or lean that will cause even greater risk of collapse in the future. The foundational work is something that is done carefully, accurately, and without hurry.

That is what we are looking at doing within the church as we worship, learn, pray, and fellowship together. It may be that our children or the children of those we have not even met yet will carry on the work of building walls and putting up the roof.

This Aint That

Please be patient with us as we try our best to use the gifts that God has given us to advance His Church, the "pillar and ground of the truth".  Sometimes Christians in America can inadvertently apply the drive-through-window characteristic of our fast paced society to the local church. Yes, there have been great awakenings and revivals, there was a day of Pentecost, but there are also the times of Ezra and Nehemiah that involved several generations and a lot of hard work.


"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.  And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.  Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.  And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?  And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?  Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.  And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?  Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.  But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:  For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.  But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." –Acts 2:1-21 [emphasis mine]

Pentecost was a specific fulfillment of prophecy for the initial transformation from the Old to the New Covenant.  The work we are involved today is not that.  God has given us ordinary means to accomplish the work of the Church.  Far too often we do nothing waiting for extraordinary means that are not given for this age.

These ordinary and outward means are stated as the Word of God, the sacraments and prayer in the Larger Catechism.  Pastor Michael Brown wrote, “We do not need more movements, more conferences, and more celebrities. We do not need the next big thing. What we need are more churches committed to the way disciples have been made since the Apostles planted a church in Jerusalem two thousand years ago: the slow-going, unspectacular, ordinary ministry of Word and sacrament, where God is raising dead sinners and creating a living communion of saints.”1

Conclusion

We are living in New Testament times. We know that Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. We know He will build His church despite the gates of Hell. We know all enemies will ultimately be put under his footstool. However, we also know that we live in a time of godlessness, lawlessness, corruption, and rebellion. God will not bless covenant breakers, but curse them. We might dream of a day of Pentecost, but this ain't that.  If there was ever anything to expect from God, it would be chastisement for our sins.

Does that mean we give up in fear and unbelief? God forbid! Just as the first century martyrs held fast to the faith, so do we! And we believe that we have come to the kingdom for such a time as this. Consequently, I want us to assess ourselves and the times we live in with righteous judgment and make proper application of the Scriptures in our homes, the church, and the greater society.

Leave the fear of being left behind to those quacky dispensationalists who follow Tim LaHaye, and bear with us as we lay foundation blocks in South Central Indiana.  Who knows? Maybe this will be the new Geneva some day?

May our focus be on the one true and living God in 2015! May we worship and serve the Triune God in liturgy, community, and mission!


"Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.  And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.  Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.  See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men." –1 Thessalonians 5:11-15
 Source Notes:

  1. Brown, Michael G. " Ordinary Means." Tabletalk Magazine. Ligonier Ministries, retrieved 19 January 2015. http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/ordinary-means.