The Family and The Church

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The relationship between the family and the Church is the last, but maybe the most important, of the four components that make up family discipleship. We will start by explaining the family God provides in Christ Jesus and end with how we all play a part in the discipleship of people in our community, including individual families and their kids. 

Here are six things Scripture tells us about family.

1. Jesus speaks of a forever family not built or sustained by flesh but by faith. When asked about his biological mother and brothers in Mark 3:34-35 Jesus said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” In Matthew 19:29 after Peter said they had left everything to follow him (including many family members, their homes, and careers) Jesus gave his disciples hope by promising an everlasting spiritual kinship with those who had and would soon follow Christ as they had. Jesus also placed the relationship with him and his kingdom above family relationship since there will be families divided by the faith offered in Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 14:26).

 

2. God established the wider faith family dynamic when he established the Israelite people. Though God’s law separated Israel from other nations its design was to bring people in, not keep them out. God’s people showed the world His power and covenantal promises as God’s people were faithful to follow him. When Israel followed God’s commands the glory of God was on display, which brought people to know God (Matt. 5:16-17, 1 Peter. 2:12). Think of those God brought into relationship with him in the Old Testament like Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (Dan. 4:37), or, more explicitly, how beautiful it is to see Rahab, a prostitute who lived in Jericho, and Ruth, a Moabite in the lineage of Jesus (Matt. 1: 5). These were not born Israelites, but they became family through faith (Romans 4:16-17)! 

 

3. Paul continued to speak of a family built of faith. In Romans 9:8 Paul said, “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” Paul wanted to show those gentiles coming to faith that they would not lose the promises of God mentioned in Romans 1-8. Paul is reminding those who saw the historical Israel fall that God did not fail his spiritual family then and He won’t do it now with us. Paul tells us God’s family (his people) will be judged according to the heart, not the flesh (1 Sam. 16:7). 

In heaven, the picture (marriage) will be superseded by the reality- Focus on the Family

 

4. Paul, throughout his letter, uses the language of brothers and sisters when talking about the Church (Romans 1:13, 1 Cor. 1:10, Gal. 1:11, Phil. 1:12). In the Church the idea of family is seen in relation to God as our Father, Christ our brother and King, and the Holy Spirit as our seal and helper. We are no longer individual families but, in Christ, are baptized into a spiritual family- mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters in Christ. Bringing us into a faith family does not diminished marriage or blood relationship; a physical family has a great purpose. Blood family and marriage are meant to be beautiful illustrations of a greater picture of promise- a forever family in Christ!

 

5. The Bible speaks of the promise that one day there will be no sin, separation, favoritism, or pain. God will be King and we will worship in fullness without any hindrance. During that time we will be fulfilled and earthly marriage or parenting will not be needed (Luke 20:34-36). Why? Because God has restored all things and we are complete in him. He is Father and Husband. We are his bride and children. 

 

6. Paul tells us we still have responsibilities to our individual families. Our biological families matter to God. Paul when defining what a widow is states that if the woman has children or grandchildren she is not to be considered a widow in the church community and be provided for, but to be provided for by her children (1 Tim. 5:3-5). 

 

With these six truths in mind we can see that God’s plan for the numeric number of growth to his kingdom is not limited only to a biological impression one can make with the help of another in the context of marriage. Discipleship goes beyond the capacity of parents and parenting. God sends singles into the mission field (men and women) to be disciples who make disciples. God has provided us with the church and the church with us to make disciples! Our ultimate role then as disciples is about pursuing God’s will by the power of the Spirit with the gifts he has provided as a means to be making disciples of all nations trusting the Lord is providing a forever family all for his glory (Eph. 1:16)! We are to be actively pursuing outside of our homes the discipleship of adults and children believing in the promises God made to those in Acts, “for I have many in this city who are my people.” (Acts 18:10). 

 

Now that we can see a broader view of family we can see the need of teaching and training one another to become a true community of believers who make disciples in and out of the home while looking for other believers to teach and influence our biological children in the gospel of Jesus!

 

The church is a real family. We are a family in which Christ is the head (Col 1:18). We place our head, heart, and hands to his work together. 

So what is the work? Ultimately it is to make disciples of Jesus (Matt. 28:18-20). This means WE, as families, unified by baptism in Christ Jesus, are disciples who pursue evangelism and discipleship of all nations/people and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (into the faith family) and teach them all that Christ has commanded. 

 

When the elders, deacons, and partners of our church come together on Sunday mornings we worship through song, testimonies, catechisms, communion, tithes and offering. We call each other to repentance, faith and action in settings most effective for the people of God. The church is then not limited to one teacher using their gifts but a multitude of teachers and musicians and stories can be expressed and shared throughout the morning (and week) together. 

 

God has given his church a leadership structure so she can grown and thrive for his glory. The servant leaders (the Elders) are to shepherd, oversee, and teach the church. The leading servants (the Deacons) are to take on the daily needs of the church. The Partners - His Serving Saints are to saturate the world in the gospel of Jesus. There is no greater force than the Church and there is no Plan B. Though she (the church) is not completely perfect yet, God sees her as holy and being sanctified by and through the work of the cross (Heb. 10:14). We work together to disciple those in our groups or communities. We need each other. 

 

SETTINGS FOR FAMILY DISCIPLESHIP that YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN
Like I said at the beginning I want to finish by sharing how we can practically live life together by creating rhythms with one another. In these rhythms we are working to make disciples because with children discipleship is taking place as they are brought into these rhythms. These rhythms are not meant for us to sit and watch others serve us but times where we too are willing and ready to give and serve with our spiritual gifts and physical energy to see discipleship take place for others.

  • We Gather for worship in music, testimony, preaching, communion, and offering each Sunday
    • During these times we ask Partners and deacons to set up environments that our children can hear the gospel in an age appropriate setting with those we know are growing in their faith. 
  • We Gather for Partner meetings
    • During these times we meet as Partners to fellowship, celebrate, and deal with Church matters together as family. 
  • We Gather for training each Sunday in the Academy and Partnership Experience 
  • We Scatter into groups for community and mission each week
    • We incorporate our children into our family meal and project times. We desire that our children see a group of people who love Jesus, love the church, love their city, and love them. 
  • We Scatter into our work-place and market-place for daily missions

If you were to participate in weekly group times and Sunday corporate gatherings, you and your family would be in community 104 times each year (about 208 hours). If you add family meals or community efforts twice a month it would be 128 times a year (about 256 hours). These hours are not hours for us to consume but hours to serve and live life together. 

Your Kid and Jesus in Family Discipleship

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How do I know my child is saved? What if my child says she wants to be baptized? My child walked down an aisle at a summer camp and said he prayed to Jesus; what do I do? 

 

As Christians, we never want our children to experience sin or follow in our sinful footsteps. So, we pray, we teach, we model, we love and we present the gospel to them. But what do we do when little Sue says she prayed to Jesus? 

 

What tends to take place in our excitement is we run to tell everyone the good news. Then we measure our child’s salvation in two unhealthy and even damning ways. We measure their memory and their behavior. We cross our fingers when we ask them to repeat scripture or catechisms and judge how they treat their siblings or friends. Why is this so reckless as parents who desire for their kids to walk with Jesus? As parents we need to go deeper, especially if our children have experienced a Christian culture their whole lives. Good deeds do not mean a changed heart. 

 

We must stop, pray, and then ask our child what happened and what they mean when they say they prayed to Jesus. We forget discipleship is a lifelong journey. It is more important to know WHY someone does something than to monitor what he or she is doing. God says he looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7, Luke 16:15). God is going after and changing our whole being; our affections! Salvation is what God offers in Christ’s life, death and resurrection- to be a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

 

The gospel is not just a theological concept to be memorized. The gospel should change what we believe, who we are and how we live! 

 

No matter if your child gets all the answers right or can’t sit still for more than two minutes, you have to fight for the ‘WHY’. The ‘why' addresses the heart! What do they love more than anything? What do they value so much that they get mad if you take it away from them? What wants do they have that cause them to become angry if they don’t get them? What are they looking to for satisfaction, happiness or provision? These are not softball questions for your kids but they, like Jacob, have to wrestle with God! 

 

I’ve recently been given several opportunities to walk other parents through considering where their child is spiritually. These kids are not walking down an isle or professing Christ in a family worship setting. I’m reminding myself of these simple truths and I hope you can incorporate them in your discipleship mindset of your kids.

 

 1. Make sure your child has the essential foundation for the Christian faith. The Christian faith is not subjective; there are things one must believe. I have heard children and young adults say “I went down the aisle and asked Jesus into my heart”, but in asking just a few questions, I realized they could not define who Jesus is, what sin is, or what they meant by using the word ‘heart’ in the most basic sense. The church has a knack for developing universally used phrases and not explaining them. The phrase, “ask Jesus into your heart,” is by and large one of the most common unexplained phrases. I won’t go on a rant here, but I will say that we as a church should do a better job of biblically calling people to repentance and faith in our great God and King. The basics of belief would include things such as God being the creator of all things, the Trinity, the effects of Adam’s sin, the Law of God, the virgin birth, the perfect life, the death, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus for the glory of God and forgiveness of sins, the sending of the Holy Spirit, and the return of Christ. Paul lays out a clear picture of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:2-4. If you’re struggling for a place to start, start there!

 

2. Ask clarifying questions! PLEASE! Sometimes we give our kids way too much credit. Kids have the natural ability to absorb content which means they can repeat back those universal church words or phrases they pick up along the way. Judah loves to tell me things he hears about Jesus or the Bible and one of the first things I do after thanking him for sharing is asking what he means by that. There are times when he heard something, and it sounds great, but he has no idea what that means. We do this as adults too. If I were to ask you “what is the gospel?” or “explain to the best of your understanding ‘the Trinity’”, most of us would struggle to articulate. 

 

3. Teach them repentance and faith. Repentance and faith move our hearts! Repentance is taking place when children cry not because they got caught or because they have to get a spanking but, rather, because they have sinned against their God. When children are asking you questions about God at unprovoked, random times in the day, they are exercising their faith. 

 

4. Expect them to believe what you believe and push their minds to think outside of the world in which they have been graciously placed. One night during family worship I told Judah that many people believe humans were born from old animals (apes). Judah laughed, but I was straight-faced. I said, “Judah more people believe that then they believe in God. They laugh at mommy and daddy. They think we are silly.” Judah hears the truth all the time, so I have to stretch his mind. I want him to be in the real world, not a Christian bubble. I want him to remember my earnest desire for him to know what he believes by challenging his beliefs with me! 

 

5. Ask for your community to help. If you feel your child desires to submit his life to Christ, then he’s coming into a forever family. Your Group or Missional Community is a great place to ask questions. These can be the people who walk with you and your child as you both grow in faith and repentance. 

So when it comes to your child’s profession let’s sum it up:

 

•    Children who are professing Christ must be able to share or define (even in the basic sense) what they believe about God, sin, Jesus’ work on the cross to forgive their sin, and what this means for their lives (how God is changing their belief/heart). 

•    Children who are professing Christ should be heart-broken over sin and thankful for God’s great grace. They should be concerned as much if not more with WHY they are doing something then what they are doing. 

•    Children who are professing Christ should desire to follow God – not forced to spend time with God. 

•    We must pray for God to call our children to repentance and faith as we display and declare the gospel to them. 

•    We have to be willing to tell our children what the world believes and explain why Jesus is truer and better than any other belief! 

•    We have to ask really good questions. Do not just take a few catechism questions and answers and call it a day. Dig deep with your child as you have ongoing conversations!

•    We have to be pursuing their hearts! 

•    As parents, we should invite our Christian brothers and sisters into our children’s response to Christ and future life in him. When we (you) are baptized we are expressing our belief of forgiveness of sin bought by Christ and are brought into a HUGE faith family (read The Family and The Church). Parent, you are not alone! The church has been given to you and you have been given to the church all for the glory of God and the growing of his kingdom!

 

If your child is asking about her next step with Jesus, the first step is to continue to disciple them and help them understand what that means. Be excited for your child, yes, but walk him/her through each word and help him/her grasp the power and presence of God! If you feel your child has made a quick or peer-pressured decision, do not rebuke them. This is a great time to love them and rejoice that (s)he is taking steps towards some form of godliness. As a spiritual family do not neglect the spiritual gifts of others to help share the good news of Jesus with your child. Involve people that love Jesus, love the Church, and love you to be a second voice in their life. When you see your child desire God take them to the next step: baptism! 

 

One last thing, you are not a bad parent if you asked your child to wait a few weeks to get to know what took place in their heart. If you are a Christian, your identity is not a “bad parent.” Your identity is a son or daughter of God. Like I just mentioned, be excited for your child, but love him/her well. Press into his/her words. It is OK. He/She will appreciate the time and care you gave them when they are older.

Cheryle Barnes' Testimony

"The facts that I learned about Jesus in church became real. I knew that he reached out and took away my sins and I was forgiven. I no longer had to live in the guilt and shame of my own making. I felt free and loved for the first time in a very long time. Jesus continues to teach me through the Word of His life, His death, His sacrifice, His resurrection, and His Love. I know now that I must lay down my life in the Ordinance of Baptism, just as our Savior laid down His life on the cross for me 2,000 years ago." Cheryle turned from a life of seeking fulfillment and truth outside of Jesus Christ and found hope in the gospel of Jesus! She was baptized by her brother, Jim last week. Hear Cheryle's story below!

Sarah Brooks' Testimony

"God began opening my eyes to the fact that I didn’t have an action problem, but a heart problem. For the first time in my life I truly saw just how depraved my heart is. My whole life I had tried to be good, and do good, but all along my sinful heart was the issue . . . Jesus willingly went [to the cross] out of unimaginable love for me. He lived the perfect life, because I couldn’t. He took on the weight of my sin and died the death that I deserved. One day He is coming back for me and I get to live with him praising His name for all of eternity!" Sarah took a step of obedience in being baptized, and we are thrilled to celebrate with her. Listen to her whole story below!

Lindsay Carr's Testimony

Lindsay was baptized this past Sunday by her husband, Josh and we celebrated her new life in Jesus Christ when she identified with his life, his death, and his resurrection! Hear her whole story below of surrendering to Jesus and growing in his grace and with his people.

5 Ways to Seek True Wisdom Together

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Proverbs 4:7 says, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom:”

As a follow-up from Sunday’s message, “Together we seek wisdom,” here are 5 ways we can seek wisdom together. (If you missed Sunday's message, go back and listen before diving in here!)

1. Ask God for wisdom in the midst of suffering.

James 1:2, 5 (ESV) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Our youngest daughter, Ellie, is suffering from skin issues stemming from food allergies. It is painful for us to see her suffering in such a way, but at the same time we are asking God for wisdom in how to deal with it. This has led me and my wife, Jaye, down a long road of learning about nutrition and diet. The result is that Ellie will eventually be healthier AND so will our whole family as we learn to eat better quality foods together as a family. This wouldn’t have happened without the motivating force of suffering in the lives of one of our family members and the wisdom God gave us through it.  

2. Study God’s Word

2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Do you have a Time, Place, and Plan for your devotion time with God? If you are not filling your mind with the knowledge of God, then you can’t expect to exercise the wisdom of God. If there is no knowledge of God from His Word, that means you are left with your default sinful nature that relies on the flesh for wisdom. This always ends up in chaos and every kind of evil practice.

3. Walk in Gospel community

Proverbs 11:14 (ESV) Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

There is such a strong tendency to live solely as individuals in our modern, Western culture and avoid true gospel community. God designed His church to live in community and when we do, the benefits for discovering wisdom from one another multiply immensely.

Not only that, but we move from knowledge (facts about God and His Word) to wisdom (relating God’s Word to everyday life) best when we are in gospel community. Bible studies are good, but we can’t stop there; ultimately we have to exercise wisdom by being “doers of the Word, and not hearers only,” (James 1:22). In other words, living life in gospel community with others gives us a great opportunity to be on mission together as we seek the wisdom of God about how to make disciples who make disciples.

This is the very reason we will be transitioning our Groups to Missional Communities. We don’t want to follow a church fad, a new church program, or pile more obligations onto our church Partners (all tendencies resulting from exercising man’s wisdom). We want to seek God’s wisdom together in community to follow Jesus' commands to be a witness and to make disciples. Wisdom would say to look at Jesus’ life and imitate how he was on mission and made disciples. He did it in community, with intentionality, and Holy Spirit empowerment. That’s wisdom and that’s our hope for Missional Communities.

4. Learn the gospel so you can apply it to your life with wisdom.

1 Corinthians 15:1–2 (ESV) Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

The gospel - the good news of who Jesus is and what he did - is not just the good news of how to be saved, but it is also the good news of how to “stand” and continue “being saved” as Paul told the Corinthians (see above Scripture). If we don’t know the information of the gospel, we can’t relate it into wisdom. At the same time, if we merely know the information, but don’t see the need to connect it to everyday life, we won’t relate it to wisdom either.  

Do you know the gospel? Can you relate it to your life? It is almost impossible to do this outside of community. Ask the Lord to help you understand a gospel-centric life.

5. Pray individually and pray in community.

Mark 11:24 (ESV) Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Again, do you have any sort of plan to pray on a daily basis? One of the most profitable things I discovered years ago was keeping a prayer journal. When writing down your prayers, you can better concentrate on prayer rather than drift off into thinking about all the stuff you have to do that day. Not only that, you can go back in your journal and see the hand of God moving in your life as he has answered so many of your prayers. As Paul Miller says, “I manage my life through prayer.” We should too because it’s the essence of God dependency. Also remember this: God reads your prayer journal every day - now that’s encouraging! 

It is so encouraging to pray WITH people. Especially when the Lord comes through in a big way for someone with whom you have been praying. It is a “faith builder” and leads you and those you’ve been praying with into worshipful gratitude! Talk about relating to God in a special way: pray together and watch Him move.

When we seek, and find wisdom, the result is happiness.

Proverbs 3:13 “Happy is the man who finds wisdom”


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Tim Bice is the lead elder and teaching pastor at Greenbriar Church.

The Gospel Isn't a Cul-de-Sac

Originally posted on the Saturatetheworld.com.  By Brad Watson May 9, 2016

Check out all of their resources on living missionally in everyday life.

The cul-de-sac was a phenomenal invention for the suburbs.

It created a safe and peaceful place for families to raise children.

No one passed through. In fact, the only time strangers can appear is after a wrong turn and they find themselves at the dead end. The design made it simple for those who don’t belong to quickly turn around.

It also kept everyone who belonged there in one place. Once you came in, you didn’t have to leave. You could remain the rest of your days with likeminded folks, playing games in your asphalt sanctuary.

The cul-de-sac is the epitome of the suburban life and values. However, the gospel is not a cul-de-sac. It isn’t a safe sanctuary that separates you from the dangers of the world—it throws you into the world. It isn’t your private enclave to secure your values and doctrines. It ushers you into a hospitality for the other—the not like you.  The gospel is doctrinal, changing what we believe. It also is personal, changing who we are. But it is more than that.

THE GOSPEL IS MISSIONAL: IT CHANGES WHERE & HOW WE LIVE.

If we just focus on the doctrinal and personal aspect of the gospel, we will neglect its missional aspect. If the doctrinal gospel changes what we believe, and the personal gospel changes who we are, then the missional gospel changes where we live and what we say. It is the hopeful announcement that God is making all things new in Christ Jesus! The gospel ushers us into a new kingdom and new world. We no longer live in a world dominated by death and deconstruction but one of life and re-creation!

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” —Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61

THE GOSPEL CHANGES EVERYTHING

The gospel changes everything. It is not only good news for us, but also for our neighbors, the poor, our city, and the world. It affects the social, cultural, and physical fabric of the universe. In Luke 4, Jesus preached the gospel to the poor, marginalized, and oppressed. It is good news for them because through his death and resurrection he has defeated sin, death, and evil (1 Jn. 2:133:8). The gospel announces the in-breaking reign of Jesus, which is in the process of reversing the order of things. The poor become rich, the captives are freed, and the old become new.

HE GOSPEL SENDS US ON MISSION

Those who follow Jesus join his mission by making disciples of all ethnic groups by going, teaching, and baptizing (Matt. 28:18-20). We are sent to teach, speak, counsel, discuss, and proclaim the gospel to others so that they might be baptized into God’s new creation and join his mission of making all things new. We are called “ambassadors of reconciliation” and given the privilege of sharing in Jesus’ ministry of reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:17-20). Those who have been changed by the gospel share its life-changing power with others. We should announce and embody the good news by caring for the poor and rebuilding cities (Is. 61:4). In fact, the future for the people of God is an entirely new city in a new creation (Rev. 21). The church should be a movie trailer of this grand, coming attraction, when all things will be made new!

REMEMBER, THIS IS WHO YOU ARE

The result of the church—you, us—being sent is that we live as a community of disciples—not only devoted to Jesus and to one another—but devoted to our neighbors and our city, too. When we come to Christ, we are all sent on his mission.

We are new and have a new purpose. Christ reconciled us to himself and we are a new creation. Our old way of finding identity and our broken ways of finding meaning are over. We are reconciled and ushered into a vibrant and living relationship with God. This is the gospel, that Christ has reconciled us to God through his death and resurrection and is making all things new—even us. We are recipients of the gospel, messengers of the gospel, servants of the gospel, and are representatives of the gospel’s work. See, you cannot separate our identity in Christ from our purpose in Christ. That identity and purpose requires some sort of expression of gospel focused community on mission:

  • We live on mission because we have received the gospel.
  • We live on mission because we are messengers of the gospel. He is making his appeal to the world through us.
  • We live on mission because we are ministers of reconciliation—servants of the gospel.
  • We live on mission because we are ambassadors—representatives of the gospel.

A Letter to Sylvester

In August of 2016, Greenbriar Church of Albany, Georgia launched a new campus in Sylvester. This happened at a time when there seemed to be much interest for a new church in the community of Sylvester. As a native of Sylvester, I was excited about the opportunity to see the city I grew up in impacted by a thriving gospel-centered church. One of our elders, Gordon King and his wife, Traci, along with a team of families stepped out from our Albany campus to lead this church plant. From the beginning, this team has been continually faithful to that call.

We are sad to say that September 3rd was the last service we held in Sylvester. While this may come as a shock to you, understand that it was not a hastily made decision. We can tell you that

we processed many things over the last several months. The initial number of families attending the church plant were good. As time pressed on, however, we saw those numbers dwindle. The often challenging work of week-to- week ministry put a stress on the launch team.

After months of prayer and consideration, a unanimous decision was made between our elders and advisory board to disband the Sylvester campus. Please know that throughout this journey, none of our pastors have led or sinned in a way that would disqualify any of them from eldership or pastoral ministry. Through it all, we believe we have been faithful. One of the greatest evidences of faithfulness has especially been seen in the life of Gordon King.

We recognize that churches pop in and out of cities often without ever giving a reason or making the community aware. We did not want to do that, but instead wanted to inform you that we disbanded Greenbriar Church in Sylvester.

Our hearts have been heavy as we have made this decision. The disbanding of the church in Sylvester has in some ways felt like an infant death to us. We had high hopes of seeing this young church plant grow into full maturity. That did not happen, and we grieve because of it.

While our hearts are heavy over this situation, as we reflect on the last year, we realize we have not lost a lot. We have learned much. Our church is still very much alive, and possibly more alive now than we ever have been.

Thank you, Sylvester, for giving us a chance to plant a church in your midst. Our hope is that our departure would not harm your faith in Christ and His church. Our desire is to see people come to know Christ and faithfully serve him. We will continue to pray that this will happen in Sylvester in mighty ways. We would be grateful for your future prayers for us as we seek to make disciples and plant more churches.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact our church at 229-405-1843.

Tim Bice
GB Albany, Teaching Elder

You and Your Kid in Family Discipleship

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One of the harshest realities of Christian parenting is accepting that we cannot make our children become followers of Jesus. We can and should influence godly disciplines, but Christianity requires a heart change, a change in affections. According to Scripture, the Holy Spirit convicts of sin and empowers people to glorify Christ (John 16). The Holy Spirit brings about eternal significance and salvation through repentance and faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Acts 15:11, Eph. 2:8). In fact, we harm our children by attempting to change their hearts through behavior modification. Why? Behavior teaches our children to deal with sin through pride or fear.

Behavioral modification is the opposite of the gospel!

So we must display and declare the gospel in every area of our lives, not just the overtly, easy ‘churchy’ environments.

In “Seeing and Savoring Jesus in Family Discipleship”, we looked at the first part of family discipleship which begins with you and Jesus. The second part of family discipleship is between you and your children.

There are six things to consider when it comes to your relationship with your children.

1.      You must expect them to sin, a lot, for the rest of their lives.

2.     You must be selfless.

3.     You must ask others for help.

4.     You must disciple/train your children throughout the day.

5.     You must be ready to shepherd their hearts.

6.    You must expect to disciple your children for the long haul.

Let's go through each one very briefly.

 

1.      You must expect them to sin, a lot, for the rest of their lives.

As parents, we expect “good kids.” But there are not “good children” and “bad children”. There are children with easier temperaments who need Jesus, and there are children with harder temperaments who need Jesus. We should not expect any of our children to love and follow God without first understanding who he is, the joy that is in him, their need for him because their sin. We do our children a disservice when we treat them like saints who should not sin. Much of our discipline and correction stem from false dreams of our child being the one who will change the world (or at least your future) instead of realizing that the real World Changer has already come into the world over two thousand years ago. When we portray the “Jesus complex” unto our children we expect too much from sinners (like us). This causes our children either to hide their sin due to fear (they get really good at this) or to become superior in their morality and demand others do the same (which incites pride). When we ignorantly teach them that their sin is a bother to God and to us, we miss an opportunity to teach them the real reason that Jesus has come. 

My son Judah knows Ephesians 6:1 very well. It states, “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” When Judah disobeys in a variety of ways, my first goal is to let him know that I knew it would happen. I say, “Judah I know you can’t be obedient all the time. I can’t be obedient all the time. That is why Jesus has come.” I want him to know that he does not have to lie, not because telling the truth is “the right thing to do if you are a good boy” (which incites pride) or that lying will get him into trouble (which incites fear), but that he can tell the truth because he will be my son no matter what he says (which incites love and grace). If our first response is, “how dare they do this frustrating thing”, we have placed a burden on our children that they cannot bear (Acts 15). If you are demanding the impossible from your children they miss out on true forgiveness and grace found in Christ through our discipleship of them. Real forgiveness through grace from us as parents is something they must experience. If we want “good children” they miss out on Jesus, for Jesus says, “no one is good except God alone (Mark 10:18).” You do not need good children you need redeemed children.

2.     You must be selfless.

Christians are called to run the race set before us, throwing off every sin and hindrance that would so easily entangle us from the goal of enjoying God. Marriage is also a step of voluntarily putting down selfish hindrances in order to devote oneself to another (1 Cor. 7:32-35). In marriage there are also opportunities to sacrifice one’s own desires, even godly ones, to devote to our children. God uses marriage and children to sanctify us. Being selfish is hard to see from one’s own perspective but in a community it is visible. When we live for ourselves but have a family, it is obvious. Selfishness looks like you ordering your children and spouse around to fit you and your lifestyle.  When you’re tired, everybody should be quiet. When you are busy everybody should go to the other room, when you want to relax everybody should play somewhere else. When you want to play everybody should stop what they are doing to play with you. But God has changed our purpose from glorifying ourselves to glorifying him. In Christ, we let go of our plans to follow his. At least that is what we meant when Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (Mark 1:17)” and “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25-25). Without Christ, denying oneself is an impossible task. You must surrender to Christ before you lead your children. Only in Christ will we as parents be ready for whatever the day in the home will be like. You must be willing to stop looking at the magazines and Pinterest to live in the world the Lord has given you to steward (Eccl. 3:22).  God has not given you a raw deal. He has allowed you to surrender to him as you co-labor with Christ in parenting those He loves.

3.     You must ask others for help.

We must ask others for help. Oh how we have believed the lie that the Christian community is to be compartmentalized and only exist within the confines of two hours on a Sunday. We need each other. Parenting is hard, but in a gospel community there is a lot of listening, help, encouragement, prayer confession, and fellowship. Allow your children to grow up around a community of gospel-centered people in day to day life. Your children need gospel-centered people in their lives more than they need to watch Veggie Tales. Who will your child go to when times get hard, and they are still unsure of how you as a parent will respond to their sin? If there is a gospel community, you set your children up to go to people who love Christ and you.

4.     You must disciple/train your children throughout the day.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 shapes the times we as parents should disciple our children, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and your gates.” According to Scripture we are to be teaching our children about God, his love for his glory, his love for his creation, his redemptive work and our joy in him for all he has done. Sometimes I let my kids be rambunctious while other times I have to stop and remind them how important it is to know that God is in our midst. This is the reason we read, sing, and pray — to put us in the path to see the greatest and glory of God! I love these family devotional times but these cannot be the only times. Why? Because our children learn where our affections are from our day-to-day worries, attitudes, and actions. Our children need to be devoted to our scheduled family worship times but we, as parents need to be devoted to worship our good and holy father all the time. The more times throughout the day I can remind myself, my wife, and my children who God is, what he has done, who are we in Him the more opportunities we put ourselves and our family in the pathway of God’s grace.

5.     You must be ready to shepherd their hearts.

We tend to believe that kids who can clean their room and do their homework can understand more complex life decisions. This goes back to our selfishness. Listening, teaching, celebrating, and praying will take a huge toll on us as parents. Shepherding a heart means lovingly guiding our children to godliness and wisdom. Think of godliness as the clear standards of Scripture and wisdom for when and how to apply those standards in specific situations. If we just talk in terms of do’s or don’ts without discussing their hearts we can completely miss teaching kids what wisdom is. Our children will grow into adults (LORD willing) and if they do, following rules will be up to their discretion. You have to spend the time showing them the beauty and glory it is to be saved by God and to enjoy him through the commands he has given. Do you ever get tired of children asking why daddy/momma? Cherish those moments and use them to talk about the goodness that God has given to us in following him. Whatever you do don’t just tell them right and wrong, shepherd their heart! Get to your children before the world does. Tell them of God, creation, fall, and the good news of forgiveness and a new identity we have in Christ’s work on the cross and in the resurrection. Tell them of heaven and what it will be like so that they too can see how things ought to be!

As you are proactive about wisdom there will be times when wisdom is needed in the moment. Judah is about to be 7. Throughout the past two years, he has made some negative comments about people and himself that have caught me off guard. Many times he will tell me his thought and will ask me how he can replace the thought with something about Jesus. Honestly, my first reaction is to find out who he’s been talking to! Though we should be careful concerning who our children’s mind and hearts are spending time with, I know that Judah’s heart was not pure from the beginning. He is growing into a broken world, and he too is broken himself because he inherited a sin debt from our first parents, Adam and Eve. In order to answer his question I need to shepherd his heart then just make the correction. This means I must listen to him and ask good questions. I will ask him what he thinks about what he said and why he wants to replace it. Where is his heart (heart=affections) right now? As Judah grows he is going to need an ear for all the crazy, evil, and adventurous thoughts he will have. Yes, we want him to know and believe the truth. But first, he must know I care about what he truly believes in this moment about how he sees and interacts with God and the world, and be able to express it freely.

6.     You must expect to disciple your children for the long haul.

You must expect to disciple your children for the long haul. At a certain point when children understand the do and don’ts, we take that as a signal to slack off of our training/coaching and begin to primarily be a corrective voice. But that is the point they need your life to reflect and shine Jesus. This is the point they need to see you fail and repent. As your children get older you lose more authority in their lives. But what can continue to grow from childhood to adulthood is your influence in their lives. They need to see you taking seriously the call to love them unconditionally and be in a Christian community. You won’t get much by them at this point. All correction will need evidence. Your children need you to show them Jesus in the everyday stuff of life, not in your perfection but in your open repentance.

A reminder that our identity is in Jesus alone

Why do you discipline your children? When I ask others or myself this question, I see a common thread: I don’t want to be noticed as a bad parent or to be embarrassed my children’s behavior. If good behavior in private or public is your goal as a parent, then your kids will always disappoint, and you will let them know it. You will use pride or fear to get them to stop doing that or to start doing this. And when your kids ask for a reason why, your response will be vague or without much weight. Eventually, they will stop asking why and just do it, at least when you’re around them. They will struggle to find their identity because their parents never allowed them to have one. Our children need to be free to deal with their hurt, pain, sin, and failure with someone they can trust. You do not have to be the “best parent.” God the Father is the best parent. Repent from your need to be perfect, have the perfect home, or have perfect children. None of those things are possible nor will they bring you happiness. Only the forgiveness of sin (including the sin of believing we can be perfect without Christ) by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross will set us free from chasing after such a burden. We should play, work and disciple our children because we love them, because we have been loved by our Father. If your children do not remember one verse from some summer church camp, they will be more blessed by the fact that they know their parents really loved them because they showed them an unshakable gospel.

Communion at Greenbriar Church

Since late 2015, Greenbriar Church has been celebrating weekly communion each Sunday. We are thankful for the opportunity to celebrate Christ in this way. Yet, like many weekly activities, it is good to be reminded of communion's importance so that this time does not become something begrudging or tiresome.

One of our Core Values at Greenbriar is to "Open Up". We value transparency. Several of our Partners, guests, and attenders now being familiar with our practice of weekly communion have spoken to staff and elders about the weekly practice. These comments are not harmful but rather are good for the growth of the individual as well as the church. We want to thank you for sharing your views. In response to weekly communion, we have heard statements such as, "weekly communion feels religious," "do the elder's have to explain communion each week," "people who do not take communion feel awkward," "people have left during communion."

We would like to share some practical ways in which communion can be a powerful part of the gathering, whether it is a weekly, monthly, or quarterly activity in a local body. Our hope is to help establish the practice of communion as a time of refreshing celebration. In the same way that we do not get tired of singing songs, serving one another, or hearing from the Word of God, communion is to be an ever-increasing joy in the life of the believer.

1. Communion sets the table for your response to the sermon.

Communion is different for you as you process the message that was just preached through questioning, repentance, and submission to Christ through the gospel. Communion is remembering Christ's work. Salvation is broken into three parts: Justification, Sanctification, Glorification. I won't go into detail with the three parts here, but his work on the cross was for our salvation (justification). The joy of communion is to know that you are still in need of growth as a believer. It is Christ's work that continues to give you forgiveness for sins you recognized in yourself from the message and a reminder of the power you have over that sin, in Christ, because of his work (sanctification). Taking communion is fresh because you learn more about Christ that week through the message and are able to confess sin, failure, be forgiven and follow Christ in a new way.

2. Communion is a reminder that no matter what your background or status we are all in need of the same Source.

The culture tries to define us. The culture wars, social injustices and it's ailments are bashing each of us into each other. With everyone trying to be different and be celebrated for their differences, Christians come together to learn how our differences are not primary to our identity, but rather that Christ is. It is God who defines us. Communion is a time to celebrate that each person is equal at the cross of calvary. Our identity finds it's greatest joy not in being more individually but in being together. This humbles everyone. Neither your wealth nor your poverty will get you into heaven. Your religious self-control or wrongly-viewed grace without judgement won't get you into heaven. It is by calling on Christ alone. We need a weekly reminder of our need for Christ no matter where you may be on the spectrum of any issue or circumstance.

3. Communion is a reminder that we all need something outside of ourselves.

Again, the culture spreads the idea of self-glorification for the betterment of the soul. Go into any major secular bookstore. In each store, the self-help section is filled with books about how you can fix yourself through self-reflection and behavioral modification. But if you are the problem you can't also be the solution or at least not a sustaining one. Here is where communion matters: instead of believing that you can fix yourself this week as you have done in the past, you call out to the Lord. We cannot save ourselves. Taking communion is our reminder that it is Someone outside of us who now resides in us who has the power to deliver, and not our own will.

4. Communion is about eating together.

When Jesus and the disciples had Passover they had a meal. Pieces of bread or wafers and juice is not a first-choice pick at your favorite restaurant, but it does symbolize something important to any community of believers: communion. We come to partake. We are eating from the same table. We are family. We worship through song, service, preaching, eating and drinking. We have the privilege of becoming more unified as one body as we leave the time of communion. Communion is reviving and changing the body each week.

We may not always have a weekly communion. But there is no doubt in our hearts that each time a church takes communion every believer can grow in joy, happiness, and mission through its practice. Like all things Christ gives to us, Communion becomes an ever-increasing joy as we partake in remembrance of his grace and promises!

If you would like to read a Biblical teaching on Communion please click here: http://timbice.com/archives/362

Written by: John Schroeder, Elder & Executive Pastor

Greenbriar Church and Samaritan's Purse (Albany Storm) 

Posted by John Schroeder

It's not every day that I am removing tree branches from the middle of my street in complete darkness, in the rain while wearing shorts and blue sandals. I can still hear the sounds of my neighbor's chainsaw cutting the trees down so that I could move them. Watching neighbors step outside of their homes with flashlights, trying to comprehend the damage around them. It only took about 90 seconds, but it will take weeks to recover. That was my Monday night.

Since Monday evening the city of Albany has done a fantastic job trying to put back what we can. Local businessmen have taken time away from their jobs to bring heavy equipment to move large trees. Volunteers are showing up throughout each day. I have seen more of my neighbors in the past two days than in the past five years that I have been living on 6th Avenue. For a city that gets in a lot of trouble when things are "the norm," this tragedy has caused boys to be men.

The local churches have been a huge encouragement to my family and my neighbors. Seeing churches come through with food, water, and hands is the gospel on display.

Greenbriar Church is one of the churches. I worked with a crew Monday for 10 hours and another team Tuesday for 6 hours. The before and after pictures are mind-blowing (Thanks, Greenbriar Peeps!). The church has opened its doors to the Phoebe nursery (Family Tree) until they get power. We also have posted a table filled with food and snacks for neighbors and volunteers on 6th Avenue for the past two days.

 
 

Greenbriar wants to continue to make an impact during this time. With so many needs we wanted to find someone who was centralizing information and needs. We, along with several churches, have joined up with Samaritan's Purse. SP is working to communicate with churches and organizations the needs of our city throughout the day. They have morning and afternoon volunteering opportunities for the next month. As a church; we never want to go rouge, doing our own thing so that we work against the city. Rather we want to help. We stand by our mission, For this City (that means for our neighbors and even beyond!). Sending volunteers to help with Samaritan's Purse will benefit the community and send our Partners and guests into an organized effort. If you have any questions about how you can get involved, you can call the office or email us. If you have rooms available for Partners or guests, let us know. If you want to drop off food or water give us a heads up. We can take those things to SP or the Avenues ourselves. If you are in need, please reach out. We will make some calls to help in any way we can.This is the fastest way to reach us: info@greenbriarchurch.net .

Displaying needs a Declaring!

As disciples of Jesus (A disciple is a follower and learner of Jesus who is reproducing other followers and learners of Jesus), we are called to display and declare the gospel of Jesus. Displaying the gospel will be the easy part. Helping with shelter efforts, bringing food and water, moving trees away from homes, cleaning up yards, giving people a hug is simple, tangible, and needed. As the Church, I want to encourage each of you to think long term! Build relationships, listen, share your testimony of loss (and gain in Christ), point them to Christ, invite them to Greenbriar (pick them up for the Sunday service if necessary). Tell people why you are there (because Jesus was kind, loving, and generous to you first!). Let them hear you talk amongst yourselves about Christ's love and affection towards you while you are working. Pray with them concerning the next few weeks. Give them GB invite cards with your favorite scriptures on it. Go back and see them later or invite them over for dinner!

If you need Samaritan's Purses time and contact info you can follow this link: https://spvolunteernetwork.samaritanspurse.org/albany-ga-tornado-response/

Thank you for everything you're already doing to be "For this city". Continue displaying and declaring the good news of Jesus to those around you.

Seeing And Savoring Jesus in Family Discipleship

Family discipleship is a rich opportunity for you display the gospel of Jesus Christ to your kids through parenting. As you engage your family with the gospel, it's helpful to realize that family discipleship is a multi-faceted design giving your family a holistic and healthy approach to becoming learners, followers and reproducers of Jesus.

There are four elements at work as you disciple your family:

  1.    The parent’s personal relationship with Christ
  2.    The parent's relationship with the family
  3.    Each family member’s individual relationship with Christ
  4.    Their family's relationship with the Church.

All of these elements are important to family discipleship. Before diving into each of these elements, though, it is essential to understand that parents are intended by God to be the primary disciplers of their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).  We, the Church, have two main roles in family discipleship.  First, we are the secondary voice of discipleship for your kids, reinforcing Biblical, Gospel truths and affirming the parents’ authority given by God.  Second, we want to teach and equip you as parents to take this holistic approach in your family discipleship.

Our desire is to teach and equip you as parents. We are eager to do that through blog posts that address each of the four elements of family discipleship.  This post will focus on the first of those four elements: “The parent's personal relationship with Christ.”

Family discipleship begins with how parents seek and savor Jesus. 

To be effective disciple makers of Jesus, you must have been and continue to be transformed by the gospel. If Jesus is a second thought to parents, discipleship will not be lived out before their children. Knowing the difference between taking children "to church" and allowing your children to see you "being the church no matter where you are" is key to family discipleship. If Jesus is just a church word parents use for behavioral modification (i.e., telling them to, “Stop that behavior because Jesus doesn’t like that,” saving yourself from public embarrassment), parents may cause their kids to become disciples of good behavior, but not disciples of Jesus Christ. 

So parents, how do you know you are personally trusting in Christ? Here are some questions to consider. When was the last time you trusted in the gospel for a family, work, or church decision? When was the last time you trusted and acted on the gospel instead of the sinful desire welling up within you? When was the last time you actually confessed sin to your family or small group because you knew that you didn't have to hide your sin from others since Christ died to set you free of shame and guilt? When was the last time you acted in faith and loved someone who didn't deserve it because you were reminded of God's great love for you on the cross, giving you forgiveness and new life despite all of your rebellion, rejection, and sin toward Him? 

Even if our children never receive Christ, our children will be convinced that we truly believe Jesus is everything He said He was by the way we live out that belief in front of them. 

This is not the mindset that most of us grew up with, and it can be difficult when you grew up in a culture of "going to church every time the doors were open". But we have to change our mindset. We have to grow up in the gospel ourselves. How do you do that? You must train your mind to focus on Christ (Romans 12:2-3; Philippians 4:8-9). As a parent, you must be reminded of the truths of the gospel and lean on the power of gospel every single day (Titus 2:11-15). You must wake up, work, play, and sleep the gospel truths for your life (2 Peter 1:3-10). And when you recognize your lack of love and loyalty to Christ, you can stop and worship the Lord in that same moment because the gospel has done the work you failed to do, granting you complete access to the Father (Colossians 1:13, Ephesians 2:1-10).

Training your mind to see Christ takes practice. 

You can be reminded of His great love by practicing spiritual disciplines or “means of grace.” As Tim taught us in the Rhythms series at the start of 2017, many spiritual disciplines can be divided up into three major sections: hearing God's voice (scripture and meditation), having God's ear (prayer and fasting), and communing with God's people (small groups).

Spiritual disciplines seem hard, but thankfully God has not made himself difficult. As we set our life to his design, we prosper. God does the transforming (2 Corinthians 3:18)! Our job as believers is to get in his path! We get into his path when we engage in a rhythm of spending time with Him. You need a time, place and plan for the spiritual disciplines in your life. Be diligent. Surround yourself with a gospel community who is ready to serve. Dallas Willard said, "Grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning." Take the next step in glorifying the Father through knowing more of Christ. 

Living in light of the gospel will transform how you see God's design for parenting. You will experience the perfect parent-to-child relationship that God has with you which is rooted in love. As you continue to experience this transformation, you will treat others--including your children--with the same grace you have received and are now receiving. You will give abundantly because you are now more aware of the abundant grace afforded you. 

Your relationship with Jesus Christ as a parent is a crucial element for you in discipling your kids in a holistic way because you are tapping into a key element of any discipleship relationship, which is “demonstration.”  Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators ministry, explains that “Discipleship is more caught than taught.”  When your kids see you loving and following Jesus, they are more likely catch on and do it themselves.   

Parents, if you are reading this and feel far from the grace and love of God we want you to know that in Christ we are no longer defined by what we have done or will do, but rather by the word and work of Jesus. If you not have repented of your sin and placed faith in Christ for forgiveness and restoration of your life, both now and forever, God has made this truth available to you in Christ! You will become a new person with a beautiful identity (2 Corinthians 5:17) in Christ as a son or daughter (Romans 8:14-15). A new identity also includes a new family. We, the church, are that new family. Please share with us what the Lord is doing in your life. 

Who Is Responsible for Church Discipline?

Posted by Tim Bice

I think most Believers automatically think that the pastor, elders, or leaders of the church are the ones to handle all church discipline issues within the church. However, that is not always true. To help us understand it better, Jay Adams in his book, “Handbook of Church Discipline,” distinguishes between “informal” and “formal” church discipline.1

Informal discipline

Informal church discipline is actually carried out among brothers and sisters of Christ within the church. Informal discipline includes the first two steps Jesus outlines in Matthew 18:15-16. If a brother is in sin, go to him in truth AND love. Go to him not only to warn him, but also to counsel him. If the person in question does not repent, then witnesses are called in. The witnesses are to be objective, listening to the cases of both the charged and the one charging; they are not there just to support the one charging. These steps are considered “informal” discipline that can and should be done by church partners (members).

A warning

This is not a green light for gung-ho church members that get off on confronting the sin of others. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”(Matthew 7:3) This verse reminds us that we are not perfect and need to observe our own life as well. We always approach others in truth AND love. Like a friend once told me, “I don’t want to be so truthful that I’m unloving but on the other hand I don’t want to be so loving that I’m untruthful.” I might add that this process should be slow enough to give the charged time to repent, but quick enough that it doesn’t linger forever.

Formal discipline

Formal discipline starts in the third step of Jesus’ instructions (Matthew 18:17) where witnesses are instructed to tell the church of the unrepentant sin of the charged. This is where the elders/pastors formally get involved and where it becomes serious. There are also times when serious public situations occur such as in 1 Corinthians 5 where a man was sleeping with his father’s wife and the whole community knew about it. If a church partner commits a public sin, the elders need to go directly into formal church discipline with the hope of repentance and restoration in mind.

Accusations against an elder/pastor

There must be more than one person to bring accusations against an elder/pastor. “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.”

The divisive person

Just like a good husband/father won’t let a disruptive person continually harm his family and home, neither should churches allow divisive people bent on harming the church remain in the body. In these types of cases or when a wolf begins to divide the church, the elders will act swiftly (Titus 3:10). Shepherds must protect the sheep! (Acts 20:28-29)

The church and excommunication

Excommunication sounds very harsh…until you really look at what it means. Jonathan Leeman says it best, “It’s excommunicating, or ex-communion-ing…

to excommunicate is ‘to exclude from fellowship, which is to remove from the Lord’s Table, which is ‘to formally discipline.”2 This is always done for the good of the person, the health of the church and the protection Jesus’ reputation. At this point in the discipline process, the whole church (partners only) come together to hear the elders recommendations concerning the charged. It comes full circle – back to the members – the body. The church body may decide to give more time for the charged to repent, or they may see that the charged is unwilling to repent and, therefore the church can no longer vouch for his profession of faith. The end goal is never “kick them out,” or “get them away from us.” The main goal is always the same – reconciliation, repentance, and restoration; but there will be times when people will not accept the church’s discipline and we must “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:5). Even the act of excommunication is for his good.

If the charged ever gets to this point, the church does not shun him, but continues to reach out to him. The disciplined person is made welcome in the services and gatherings except for Lord’s Supper and partnership meetings. He is to be treated “as a heathen and a tax collector,” (Matthew 18:18). In other words, like an unbeliever. Each church has plenty of unbelievers coming to their meetings and this man should be no different. The church continues loving him and asking him to repent for his own good, the church’s health, and the reputation of Jesus’ name. Until he repents, the church body cannot eat or mingle with him, (1 Corinthians 5:11).

1 Handbook of Church Discipline. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Ministry Resources Library, 1986. Print.

2 Church Discipline How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012.

Why Do We Practice Church Discipline?

Posted by Tim Bice

1. Church Discipline is Biblical.

Both Paul and Jesus commissioned church discipline (Matthew 18:15-181 Corinthians 5Tit 3:10). As Christians, our authority and source for life is God’s Word. It’s the Bible that teaches church discipline is needed.

2. Church Discipline is part of the process of discipleship. 

Discipleship has two arms: a) it is formative. b) it is corrective. In other words, not only are we supposed to care for one another, teach one another, bear one another’s burdens (formative), we are also called to help correct sin in our brothers’ and sisters’ lives (Galatians 6:1James 5:19-20) in order for them to grow as disciples of Jesus.

3. Church Discipline is an act of love.

If our view of God and His gospel is only a partial view, it becomes a weak view. Many believe the gospel is only about forgiveness – a “love without repentance” sort of gospel. Though that is partly true, there is also another element to the gospel. We are definitely forgiven in Christ; but God disciplines us because He LOVES us (Heb 12:6-11). God’s desire is for believers to be shaped into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). This is a loving desire and as Christ’s body, the church, we are to lovingly correct sin in hope for repentance in our brothers and sisters – not because we are mean or self-righteous, but because we want to love them toward Jesus.

4. Church Discipline serves as a reminder and warning about the danger of sin to the rest of the church.

As we live in a world where sin no longer shocks us, it should be the responsibility of the church to remind one another of the importance of confession and repentance, and the danger of sin.

5. Church Discipline foreshadows what is to come when Jesus judges the world.

Matthew 25 reveals Jesus judging between sheep and goats – the saved and the lost. This is a future reality, and church discipline is a foreshadowing of that reality.

6. Church Discipline increases the health of the church.

We read in 1 Corinthians 5:6-7, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? [7] Cleanse out the old leaven…” Just like cancer being removed from the body promotes health, so does unrepentant sinners removed from the Lord’s Supper and membership in the body of Christ. We don’t “kick out” the unrepentant sinner from assembling or hearing God’s Word preached. There is nothing keeping the disciplined person from coming to our general assemblies (Matthew 18:17). However, there are cases when divisive people should be put out of our midst after being warned once or twice (Titus 3:10).

7. Church Discipline shows outsiders that there is a difference between the church and the world.

Most all things in our society work on an accountability basis. For example our jobs, sports, and families all work best when formative and corrective training is taking place. The world understands this. When the world sees the church practicing accountability in truth and love, it takes notice.

8. Church Discipline upholds the reputation and the name of Jesus. 

This is the greatest reason for me personally. We are created in God’s image and once adopted by Him, we are IN CHRIST – that means “in His position.” We, as a church body, are to reflect Him and uphold His reputation.

What is Church Discipline?

Let’s be honest, in today’s day and time, Church Discipline sounds mean spirited. I think it’s because of two reasons: a) the connotation of the word “discipline” is negative, and b) because many churches have done it so poorly. Let me address both issues.

First, the English word “discipline” used to carry the sense of concern, prevention, and education. Discipline and correction were not necessarily synonyms, but were two separate things. It was later that the word “correction” was caught up in the English Word “discipline.” 1 The word “discipline” was actually meant to be POSITIVE rather than negative.

Secondly, many churches have made a wreck out of this practice! Many of us have witnessed tons of “dead bodies” that have been run over by legalistic, self-righteous church leaders driving the bus of “church discipline” to “rid troublemakers” from all aspects of church. However, biblical church discipline is motivated by LOVE, not by condemnation (see my blog post on “Why We Practice Church Discipline”). When done properly, church discipline helps the person, sustains the church, and upholds Jesus’ reputation.

Church Discipline IS NOT:

-kicking people to the curb

-condemning others by tossing them out of the church

-unloving or mean spirited

-unbiblical

Church Discipline IS:
-Loving toward the person, the church, and the name of Jesus

-A part of the discipleship process

-Biblical

The heart behind Church Discipline is the discipleship process where the church corrects sin and lovingly points the disciple toward Jesus.

Our working definition of Church Discipline is “a disciplinary action motivated by love and performed by the church towards an unrepentant church partner who is unwilling to set aside sin that is hurting a) himself, b) the church, and c) the reputation of Jesus, all in the hope of restoration.”

What kind of sins call for church discipline?

So, what are the exact sins that need to be corrected? Jonathan Leeman helps us to think wisely about what kind of sins need discipline. He teaches that formal church discipline is usually warranted when an individual crosses from sins we expect to sins we don’t.2 In other words, you may expect a new Christian with no religious background to possibly sin in some prevalent ways. However, you don’t expect an elder to sin in the same way. Both men need to be confronted – the new believer in a formative way, and the elder in a corrective way. Each case will be different and everything should be considered. The end goal is always the same – reconciliation, repentance, and restoration. That never changes. That takes time, love, sacrifice, wisdom, and prayer.

The church’s role

When a person chooses to join a church, the church does its best to conclude whether or not the person has made a believable profession of faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. If the church comes to that conclusion then it AFFIRMS the person’s salvation, and he is received into membership. The church doesn’t determine a person’s salvation, but it vouches for the person that he belongs to Christ. Formal church discipline takes place when a person’s failure to represent Christ becomes so habitual and characteristic that the church body no longer believes that member is a Christian. That means the church member has fallen into a sin from which he won’t repent – even after loving brothers, sisters, and elders warn him and try to help him. If he remains unrepentant, the church will make a determination that it can no longer AFFIRM the individual’s profession of faith. In the same way the church affirms a person’s salvation, it also has the authority (Matthew 18:18) to no longer affirm a person’s salvation. When this happens, the person is NOT kicked out of the church, but removed from membership and participation in the Lord’s Supper. The church will allow the person to continue coming to the general assemblies and events. This follows the commands of Jesus to treat an unrepentant person like a heathen and tax collector (Matthew 18:17). However, if the person is divisive and has been warned once or twice, then he is to be removed from the midst of the body (Titus 3:10). Church discipline is always to help the person, sustain the church, and uphold Jesus’ reputation.

Hope for restoration:

When a sinning brother repents, the church forgives and restores. It’s as simple as that. That’s what the church desired all along. We should rejoice like the father did with his prodigal son.

1 Handbook of Church Discipline. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Ministry Resources Library, 1986.

2 Church Discipline How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012.

For more about Church Discipline, listen to this sermon.

Part 3 of 3: What is Pastoral Care, Small Group?

How Does Small Group Care Work?

For many years, the pastor has been expected to be the primary caregiver in the church. Should a pastor be a caring shepherd to the church? Yes, but the Scriptures command pastors to be the lead caretaker, rather than the sole caretaker within the body. It commands the body to care for one another. As a matter of fact, there are fifty-nine “one another” commands in the

New Testament. Here are just a few:

  •  “Carry each other’s burdens...” (Galatians 6:2)
  •  “...Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
  •  “Confess your sins to each other...” (James 5:16)
  •  “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)
  •  “Be kind and compassionate to one another...” (Ephesians 4:32)
  •  “...Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)
  •  “...Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)
  •  “...Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)
  •  “...Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)

For too long people have treated the church like a restaurant and not a family. In a restaurant, you walk in and expect to be served. However, in a family, you are committed to serving one another. Our church is a family, and we are to serve one another. The primary way for this to take place is within small groups, where intimate relationships are cultivated and sincere care for one another flourishes.

So, the question remains, how does care within groups work? Here are a few practical ways care works in small groups:

  1. First of all, members of a small group should pray for and with one another. Prayer can take place in your weekly meetings, or it can happen one-on- one when needs arise. You can pray for those in your group and ask those in your group to pray for you. Prayer is cherished when everything is going great or when everything is falling apart.
  2. In times of need, members and leaders of your small group are like first responders. Your small group leader or designated caregiver in the group is your first contact when a crisis happens and your second contact should be your pastor. Your group can pray for you, organize a meal train for you, handle tasks or errands for you, or help with any other practical needs that arise from a crisis.
  3.  If you are in need of care, encouragement, and prayer, don’t assume everyone in your group, or your pastor knows it just because you posted something to social media. Make sure to text or call your group and your pastor when you have an urgent need.
  4.  Give permission for others in your group to care for you. It’s easy to isolate yourself when things get hard, but remember we are eager to follow the “one another”commands in the Bible. Don’t rob another person of the opportunity to obey God by loving you well.
  5.  Usually, when we think of “care,” we mean it in a reactive sense.  Something bad happens in someone’s life, and so people get involved to “care” for them. However, there is a proactive way we can care for others within our groups through discipleship. In the same way, you are being equipped by your elders to live life on mission, you equip others in your group to do the same. You will be best “cared for” when you are growing and thriving in being part of making disciples through your small group.
  6.  Lastly, be careful not to have unrealistic expectations of what care will look like. It may not turn out just like you think it should. But as long as other people are praying for you, checking on you, helping you, loving you, and encouraging you in the mission of your life to be a disciple who makes disciples, you can be grateful.

We desire to care for your needs, especially when the needs are significant (hospital, birth, death).  Having a small group of gospel-centered people and having loving pastors care for you is both Biblical and practical. This is the kind of culture you can flourish in.

Part 2 of 3- What is Pastoral Care, Expectations

What Can You Expect from Your Pastor?

Our comprehensive shepherding plan centers on assigning every partner to a pastor/elder. This assigning does two things:

1. It gives our partners a clear understanding of who is responsible for their spiritual care.

2. It gives our pastors a clear expectation of the partners he is responsible for.

You may, however, still be unsure of what to expect from your pastor, so we are giving you our list of pastoral expectations.

1. Relationship

What this means:

Part of shepherding care is to “know,” the flock and knowing requires that the elders/pastors can identify the sheep for whom they are accountable to the Lord. Therefore, your pastor will have a relationship with you rather than being totally disengaged from your life. One of the ways he will do this is in the next point – he makes shepherding calls to you a couple of times a year. Another way he may do this is by occasionally visiting your small group. To make things simple, we have assigned whole small groups to one pastor so that we can better shepherd through an entire small group and its leader. Also, from time to time, a pastor may get two or three of the groups that he is shepherding together for a time of fellowship. For partners that are not in a group, they will still be assigned to a pastor, and they will be encouraged to join a group.  These are just a few ways your pastor intends on nurturing relationships with dozens of assigned partners.

What this doesn’t mean:

The reality for all of our pastors is a tremendously busy life. With young children, businesses, jobs, ministries, and the task of shepherding dozens of people, things can get hectic. Therefore, it would be unrealistic to think you can hang out with your pastor every night or talk over the phone for hours on end. Please understand our deep love for you and that we are available to you. We just want everyone’s expectations to be realistic.

2. Shepherding Check-Ins

So many times in ministry, pastors react to the needs of people yet never take the time to be proactive with people. While we will respond to needs of our partners, we also desire to be proactive. You will receive a monthly email from your assigned pastor designed to encourage you in your walk with the Christ. This may include anything from a general checking-in, a few words of encouragement, or passing along an article that may be beneficial in your walk with Christ.  In addition to this email, your assigned elder may make occasional visits to your Group to speak or share directly with the Group. These emails and sGroup visits will replace the bi-annual phone calls we were making previously.

Please understand this does not mean that we will drop all phone conversations or personal communication with our assigned partners.  As always, when you or your family is in special need of pastoral care, we will still be available to you.  We need you to continue to make us aware of those needs in your life (birth, death, counseling needs, etc.).

Our hope is to serve you well and, at the same time, maintain a healthy and realistic balance within church, work and family. We love you all so much and count it a privilege to serve you.

What this doesn’t mean:

We never want to make these calls feel like you are going to a clinic in some unknown town to visit a doctor you’ve never seen. We hope to be more like a family doctor who knows you and you know and trust. In other words, these emails and calls are not a “check the box” impersonal duty, but rather a loving responsibility we believe will help you thrive spiritually.

3. Confidentiality

What this means:

Your dirty laundry will not be making the pastor’s sermon on Sunday, nor are you going to hear your news coming back to you from other people like a boomerang. Your pastor will not relay your struggles, sins, and other confidential information to others in the church.

What this doesn’t mean:

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. First, if we hear of a felony you’ve committed, we are obligated to inform proper authorities. Secondly, if there is a church discipline issue, we can’t say we will keep it confidential if we plan on honoring Matthew 18:15-17 where an unrepentant sinner is brought before the church. Bear in mind that only repeated, long-lasting unrepentant sin will be brought to the church.  This means that until you've been approached by one, then by two or three, then by the elders about willing sin in your life and you refuse to pursue "turning" or "repenting" from that sin, the church body won’t be informed.  We will not bring "sin struggles" before the church.  Those are sins that, though you struggle with them and sometimes still commit them, you recognize them as sin and are actively working and praying toward ending them.

4. Availability

What this means:

You will have your pastor’s contacts, and he will be available to your needs especially when there is a crisis.

What this doesn’t mean:

Your Group is the first place of primary care for you – your Group is like first responders. So, don’t let your pastor take the place of the primary care of your Group. Your group will handle such things like meal trains, daily visits, and the such. Also, your primary one-on- one discipleship most likely will not come directly from your pastor, but more than likely another partner or Group member.

5. Presence in crisis and celebrations

What this means:

If you or your immediate family is in the hospital, going through a crisis such as death, marital problems, or troubled children, your pastor’s presence is significant. Your pastor can be present, not only in times of crisis, but also in times of celebration like a child’s birth, occasional parties, or other celebrations of milestones. Proper protocol would be first to contact your Group and then your pastor.

What this doesn’t mean:

Just to reiterate point number 1, our pastors carry an extremely heavy burden of caring for their families and the partners under their care. However, that doesn’t mean you are a bother or we don’t want to be with you in crisis and celebrations. It just means we may need a little time to put some things in order before we get to you.

6. Some questions

What this means:

He will ask you questions about your life. He wants to know your struggles, your sins, and your shortcomings. He doesn’t just want to know about the bad things-- but the joyful things, too. The important aspect here is sharing and communicating. Your pastor can’t be faithful to shepherd you if you are not open and honest with him. So expect some probing questions during the shepherding calls – it's just because he loves you and wants the best for you.

What this doesn’t mean:

He won’t be asking creepy or inappropriate questions. He won’t be judgmental and condemning when you are struggling with issues. He will be loving, professional and understanding.

7. Prayer covering

What this means:

Your pastor will consistently pray for you by name each week.  What an honor for your pastor to pray for you and what a privilege for a man of God to constantly be lifting you up to the Lord!

You may get a text from him sometimes saying, “praying for you,” or “How can I pray for you?” If you are in need of prayer, send your pastor an email or text to let him know how he can pray.

What this doesn’t mean:

When we say we are “praying for you,” it's not some meaningless, non-existent jargon we are speaking. We mean it - we are actually asking the God of all creation, King of Heaven and Earth, to act on your behalf for His glory and your good.

8. Disappointments

What this means:

Your pastor WILL mess up. And, it's not if, but when. The truth is that your pastor is flesh and blood – a mere man who sins and makes mistakes. Please be patient with him as he wholeheartedly desires to shepherd and care for you well. Keep in mind that if he never knows he disappointed you, he never will be able to address, fix, repent or handle it. He needs to know when disappointments happen so that both of you can grow.

What this doesn’t mean:

Your pastor will never use this expectation as an excuse to fail you. Even though he may disappoint and fail, that doesn’t let him off the hook. One great thing about having a plurality of elders is that we will be holding one another accountable too. Please continue to pray for us as we strive to meet these expectations! We are looking forward to the next months and years of serving and loving you toward Jesus.