Learning and Living the God-centered life

One Biblical Doctrine at a time…

Can life groups be effective in Biblical counseling?

I just read an excellent article from David Murray. He writes about a friend of his who has just written a book called Equipping Counselors for Your Church. As a quick side note here is a summary of what the book is about. [The book] assists churches to become places not simply with biblical counseling ministries, but of biblical counseling. My goal is not the production of yet another program or yet another ministry on the sidelines. My goal is the promotion of a congregation-saturated mindset of every-member ministry with an entire congregation passionate about and equipped to make disciples.

David writes that he is someone skeptical about this approach and he lists these 6 reasons. Let me say that I agree with the reasons and this is why we desperately need to rethink how we train up and develop life group ministry. Yes, it is vital to the health and growth of the church but how we do it I am not sure. Maybe this book will help but the reasons that are really the obstacles listed below are the real deal.

6 reasons for skepticism to approach listed in book above.

First, I’ve questioned the desire of many in the church to get involved in other people’s lives. The majority of people come to church and leave church without saying much more than “Hello,” “How are you?” “Good,” “We need to catch up.” It seemed to me like a quantum leap to not only get past small talk, but into the deepest and most personal kind of talk.

Second, I’ve doubted the ability of most Christians to speak wisely into other Christian’s lives. I’ve had a number of years of training and practice, and yet I still feel so ignorant of the Bible and very ill-equipped to deal with even the most simple problems in other people’s lives. What hope then for Christians with only a few classes on “Counseling” under their belt?”



It's more serious than you know...

from the Resurgence blog site

In the US, this year 3,500 churches will close, this month 1500 pastors will leave the ministry, and today approximately 7,575 people will move on from church. Of those who move on, some never affiliate with a religion again saying they just “gradually drifted away from the religion.” America is experiencing, not only economic decline, but also church decay. Why?

Although there is no single reason for the collapse of the church, one has to wonder what would have happened if the pastors were not responsible for most of the ministry in these churches? What if the people who left, moved on equipped and committed to discipling others in the faith? What if these churches acted more like a community of disciples and less like consumers of spiritual goods and services? Wouldn’t the outcome be different? Churches would be more resilient and people would be less prone to drift. The church collapse is, in part, the result of a discipleship crisis.

The Discipleship Crisis

To rebuild the church, everyday people, leaders, and pastors must be taught and equippe
d to re-think and re-live Christianity. A “Christian” needs to be re-conceived as a person who shares their life and the gospel with others. The meaning of “church” has to be restored as the people of God on the mission of Christ—a people who posses an obligation of love to one another instead of a duty to a religious service. The role of “leader” needs to be reconfigured around discipling people not exerting influence. “Pastor” needs to be rebooted around the identity of disciple not the role of preacher. Christians, leaders, and pastors need to recover their fundamental identity as disciples of Jesus in order to renew their churches.

Rebuilding the church will require repentance on all levels. We need to turn away from finding our worth in our (important) roles and return to our (eternal) identity as disciples of Jesus. We desperately need to come back to being and making disciples of Jesus.

Why Discipleship Isn’t the Answer

Yet, contrary to what some might think, discipleship is not the engine of the church. The gospel is. Without the gospel, both discipleship and church fail. Without the driving force of the gospel, discipleship devolves into self-help religiosity motivated by conservative pietism. The church is reduced to a glorified non-profit in which people lose interest. But the gospel reactivates both church and discipleship!



The two groups within the church

Until the Bridegroom comes there will always be some in the visible Church who have grace—and some who have no grace. Some will have nothing but the name of Christian—others will have the reality. Some will have the profession of religion—others will have the possession also. Some will be content to belong to the church—others will never be content unless they also belong to Christ. Some will be satisfied if they have only the baptism of water—others will never be satisfied unless they also feel within the baptism of the Spirit. Some will stop short in the form of Christianity—others will never rest unless they have also the substance.

The visible Church of Christ is made up of these two classes. There always have been such; there always will be such until the end. Gracious and graceless, wise and foolish, make up the whole Church of Christ. You are all written down in this parable yourselves. You are all either wise virgins—or foolish . You have the oil of grace—or you have none. You are all either members of Christ—or not. You are all either traveling towards heaven—or towards hell. ~ J.C. Ryle

Open Letter to North American Churches

This open letter is from Rev. Fletcher Matandika Pastor, NewWestminster Chapel NewWestminster, British Columbia, Canada

My main goal in writing this letter is to highlight what I consider to be the central problem that I have observed and experienced in the North AmericanChurch, which is the lack of the faithful preaching of the Word of God. Article 29 of The Belgic Confession ofFaith identifies this as the first mark of a true church.The Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q & A 89) clearly states, “The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation” (emphasis mine).

The pure and unadulterated gospel of God’s grace is a nonnegotiable priority for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sadly, something other than the pure gospel of God’s salvation for sinners has taken center stage in the pulpits of North America to the extent that some churches have become what the Westminster Confession of Faith rightly describes as “the synagogues of Satan” (WCF 25.5). In many church circles, people do not want to hear about their fallen state because of sin and their need for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, leading to repentance unto salvation. These important truths are not always discussed, explained, or applied in the pulpits of America.

I have been to a number of churches where from the moment you walk in, you have no idea what’s going on. You go there expecting to worship and meet with the Living God, but you come out dejected and wondering if it was all worth it—sometimes feeling as if you had just participated in some evil practice (like pagan worship). The moment the preacher opens his mouth, I have often caught myself reaching for a “seatbelt,” not knowing where he was going to take me—many times not preaching from a text of Scripture but building the “sermon” around a movie clip, a newspaper article, or a story of his own making. It’s like riding on the dirty and bumpy roads in Malawi in a jeep that has neither shocks nor brakes. It’s very frightening and uncomfortable to say the least—and it’s pretty sickening.What’s worse though is hearing people’s remarks after hearing such a “sermon,” such as “Wasn’t that a great sermon?” and how“so and so” is a great preacher. The people sitting in the pews are just gobbling up garbage and junk (which is pollution for the soul) as their level of biblical knowledge and doctrine is so low—almost nonexistent for many of them. They can teach their kids to sing songs such as “Jesus Loves Me This I Know,” but they have no clue what that really means. I have been brought to tears, mourning for the lost opportunity for so many who need to hear “Thus saith the Lord”—a prophetic word from the mouth of God through the preacher to sinners who are at odds with him because of their sin.

If you would like to read the entire article then CLICK ON THIS LINK.

Bert’s comments:
This article is powerful and hard hitting against the soft and watered down preaching that has invaded the pulpits in many of our churches today. In the past 13 years I have had the privilege and joy to teach in both mega churches and small churches. I am sad to report that Rev. Fletcher Matandika has correctly stated the problem today in the American church. The first step in this solution will be for those in leadership, pastors and elders to admit this problem does exist in the church and get back to gospel-centered preaching.

Have we completely lost our way?

This video is back by popular demand. What is the basic strategy of church growth for the 21st Century American Church? If those within the church ask hard questions about these things should we consider them to be naysayers and out of line?

Read this quote about preaching in the church from Charles Spurgeon - The motto of all true servants of God must be, “We preach Christ; and him crucified.” A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching. Are we more concerned with how many people are coming rather than what those that are coming are actually feeding on?

In his book called Radical author David Platt writes the following about how many churches are seeking to grow:
First we need a good performance. In an entertainment driven culture, we need someone who can captivate the crowds. If we don’t have a charismatic communicator, we are doomed. So even if we have to show him on a video screen, we must have a good preacher. It is even better if he has an accomplished worship leader with a strong band at his side.

Next, we need a place to hold the crowds that will come, so we gather all our resources to build a multimillion-dollar facility to house the performance. We must make sure that all facets of the building are excellent and attractive. After all, that is what our culture expects. Honestly, that is what we expect.

Finally, once the crowds get there, we need to have something to keep them coming back. So we need to start programs, first class, top of the line programs - for kids, for youth, for families, for every age and stage. In order to have these programs, we need professionals to run them. That way, for example, parents can simply drop off their kids at the door, and the professionals can handle ministry for them.

I know this may sound oversimplified and exaggerated, but are these not the elements we think of when we consider growing, dynamic, successful churches in our day?

Understanding our need for The Gospel