Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Vision for Excellence

Core Values

We need to have a certainty about the Purpose of the Church, based on Scripture. Why does the church exist?

a) The church exists to worship and glorify God.
1 Cor. 10:31—“Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Heb. 13:15—“Through Him, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise.”

b) The church exists to be a repository of divine truth.
1 Tim. 3:15—“I write so you may know how to conduct yourselves in the church, which is the pillar and support of the truth.”

c) The church exists to provide a context of loving fellowship with one another for the purpose of mutual edification (Eph. 3:16–19)
Eph 4:12-16—“for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, to the
building up of the body of Christ”

d) The church exists as a training center whereby people can grow through the application of
teaching and the utilization of their spiritual gifts (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12–14; Eph. 4).
1 Pet 4:10—“As each one has received a gift, employ it in serving one another”

e) The church exists to be a light in this dark world, for the evangelization of the lost (Matt.
5:13–16; 28:19–20; Titus 2:11–15).
Matt 28:19-20—"Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey all things whatsoever I have commanded you"

Core Practice

Knowing why the church exists, we need to ask what it consequently, ought to do? Can we set practical goals that relate to the above purposes?

I believe the Biblical goals of a healthy church are set to reflect the purposes above. They may be summarized as serving 1) worship, 2) fellowship, 3) spiritual growth 4) and evangelism.

All our goals must aim at one of these "Core Practices". All else is superfluous. But how can we know if we have done these in an excellent way? Does the Bible only speak in theory? What kind of benchmarks does one look for?

Core Efficiencies

I recently read a summary of Paul's instructions to Timothy in the twin epistles that bear his name, regarding his pastoral oversight of the church. Paul "was not advising Timothy to seek success; he was urging him to pursue excellence".
In other words, Timothy was to be all that God had gifted and called him to be, and leave the results to God. Therefore we will not do "what works", but rather "what is faithful to God's Word", with the highest level of discipline, devotion, planning, and skill.
The Biblical Benchmarks are as follows:

Godly Leadership, (Ti. 1:5-9, I Ti. 3:1-7),
Leaders who are above reproach, devoted to their wife, temperate, gentle, respectable, just, devout, hospitable, lovers of good, able to teach, not self-centered or self-willed, not quick tempered or pugnacious, not contentious, free from the love of money, good managers of their own household, men with a good reputation among unbelievers—and mature believers, not recent converts. From that platform of godly example, they teach the Scripture and lead their people to Christlikeness (Ti. 1:9).

Discipleship, (Eph. 4:11,12)
The ministry of developing deeply spiritual friendships focused on teaching biblical truth, applying Scripture to life, and consequently learning to solve problems biblically –reinforced by godly examples. This involves time and personal involvement. (Jesus ministry to His own disciples is the biblical model). It must also include restorative discipline (Mt. 18:15-20).

Outreach, (Acts 17:6, 5:28)
The church built by Christ will have a strong emphasis on evangelism, beginning with its own community and extending to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Concern For One Another, (Heb 10:24,25)
The "one another" passages (eg. Ro. 12:10, 16; 14:13; 15:5, 7, 14 to name only one epistle's list) put into practice will result in a caring, sensitive, and loving church. When spiritual gifts (cf. Ro. 12:3-8; I Co. 12:4-11; and I Peter 4:10,11) are properly exercised in that context, the members will produce a community conformed to the image of Christ.

A Commitment to the Family, (Mt. 19:4-6)
Helping our people to develop solid marriages and sturdy families by teaching husbands to love and lead their wives (Eph. 5:25), wives to submit to their husbands (5:22), children to obey their parents (6:1), and parents not to exasperate their children but to nurture them in the Lord (6:4).

Biblical Teaching and Preaching, (I Ti. 4:11, 2 Ti. 4:2)
D. Martin Lloyd-Jones once proclaimed: "…I would say without any hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian church today is true preaching;…[and] obviously the greatest need of the world also." (Ro. 10:13,14,17).

A Willingness to Change, (I Co. 9:19-23)
Someone has said the last 7 words of a church are, "We've never done it that way before!" We must be willing to grow and adapt and try new things. Stagnation can be fatal to the church. However, we don't need to "abandon the centrality of the word of God, the primacy of preaching, and the fundamentals of biblical truth in order to be fresh and creative."

Worship, (Psalm 150)
This is the church's—and the individual Christian's—highest priority (I Co. 10:31). Worship is all of life, not just corporate services, but certainly including them (Heb. 10:25). Using the regulative principle (2 Timothy 3:16, 17), we need to worship God in Spirit and in Truth (Jn. 4:24, Deut. 4:2, 12:32, Rev. 22:18-19).