Wednesday, January 02, 2008
The time has arrived and our new enterprise is off the ground... or at least on the lauching pad. This week I am investigating communities in the lower rim of Calgary, and preparing my orientation packet for potential partners.
It is critical at this time that the foundations are established properly to ensure the health of our new church plant.
The seed having been carefully selected is to be nurtured in the greenhouse, as it were. Christ declared, "I will build My church". While one plants and another waters, it is Christ who "causes the growth".
With this in mind, I am carefully crafting a mission statement, vision and plan that allows us, as a church to serve as Christ's hands and feet in this endeavor, and never to build our own ediface to our own image.
THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH
Acts chapters 4-6 show the earliest Church, what characterized it, and how it evangelized and grew. I want to establish the principles of this church in what we do. Of course in every generation this has been attampted. Calvin wanted to reform the church to its purest biblical form, Wesley desired to have a "primitive church in the methodist connexion", yet each had their foibles. So it is no surprise to us that we will err. However, we have the vast amount of Church history and especially post reformation history and theology to draw on. As each century has corrected the faults of the previous, and as each of the previos provides a defence against the errors that follow, our labours to study this history and to apply its lessons, should allow that a carfully developed work today, would be purer and more authentic then any before.
THE STORY OF CHURCH HISTORY
This is our task, and I have begun it in earnest. During the past months I have invested in reading "Calvin's Institutes", selections from Luther, The Savoy Declaration, 1689 LBC and Westminster standards. I have read Tertullian and Augustine, Ian Murrey's two volume biography of Lloyd Jones, His study of Wesley and the men who followed him, Two biographies of Charles Spurgeon, A study of the English Reformation and History of the Anglican Church, Two books on the origins of the EFCA and another on the EFCC and an article on the early influences from Scottish Puritans on the Free church in Sweden. Specifically targeted materials have been consulted including John MacArthur's "The Master's Plan for the Church", Mark Dever's 9 Marks of a healthy church, as well as a dozen contemporary church planting books including Ed Stitzer and Steve Sjogren's works.
But more importantly, I have fallen back on the book of Acts, the Pastoral Epistles and Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians along with the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians and the 5th chapter of 2 Corinthians, along with Matthew 16 and 18 (The two times Jesus taught on the Church specifically). Combining the lessons of the historical applications of these scriptures three things stand out.
THE THREEFOLD FOUNDATION
Prayer, Purity and Preaching. From Acts to Augustine, from Tertullian to the Metropolitan tabernacle, from the Methodist Revival, to the Mission field, these three thigs have always been both the producer and the product of true spiritual church expansion. Christ builds His church on these and so it is in these footsteps we must follow. Certainlly these are not to exhaust our efforts, they are rather the guiding principles and foundations, from which organization, and results flow.
Yet, there is a danger. When we move beyond these basics, the basics shared by every (without exception) revival and successful ministry, these same histories show a massive collision of ideas contradictory to one another. We are faced with a choice of where we will look to draw our principles today, for leadership, organization and form.
The wisdom of the world is made foolish by God and all the secular theories combined are but "empty" moronacies, in light of divine wisdom. We must therefore become foolish, in the eyes of the world, Paul directs in 1 corinthians 3, to absorb the wisdom of God, who has written to us and told us how we "ought to conduct ourselves in ... the church".
Consequently, those authors who agree in expositing Scripture for leadership, organization and form are to be considered as helpful witnesses and those that express opinion and tradition as secondary sources.
In all this, the Scripture's through firthand exegetical labours will be the one ultimate guide, all advisors of history being helpful as expressions or digressions from these truths. in all things, may Christ have the pre-eminance.