The Gospel Commission And The Necessity Of Discipling To Distill Evangelistic Leadership

10. Identify and Develop Men as Leaders in the Reformation

This is no mere strategy, but it is the will of God for the leadership of the church. Too many churches have a senior pastor who has to face the brunt of church reform alone. This is one of the reasons why God ordained a plurality of elders.

For us, moving to plural elder leadership required reform. But in the meantime, it was vital for me to surround myself with godly men who could pray with me, hold me accountable, persuade others, speak up at vital church meetings, and stand with me in a visible way.

Christ worked to train twelve apostles. Paul had his men around him and trained them for leadership. So, too, a godly pastor will constantly pour into young men who can do the future work of reform. And it is even better for him to have older, respected men who can share the brunt of church controversy.

via eJournal : The Reform of First Baptist Church of Durham | 9Marks.

Sola Reasons For Reformation Day

The Protestant Reformation is one of the most important developments in the history of the Christian church, the most important in civil Western history, and perhaps the most formative event in all of modern world history. Though he was not alone in the efforts to reform, traditionally the Reformation is deemed to have been begun early in the sixteenth century by a German monk named Martin Luther who believed that the church of his day, the Roman Catholic Church, was not faithful to the teaching of Scripture. After failing reform from within, Luther publicly posted a series of 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg castle church on October 31, 1517. The blog of its day. For that act and his refusal to recant, he eventually faced excommunication. In the years that followed, Luther translated the Bible into the native language of the people. By doing so, he exalted the authority of the Scripture and rejected the authority of the papacy.

Luther’s work was crystalized in The Reformed movement which arose out of the work of such figures as Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and John Knox, Luther’s contemporaries. This movement, which spread throughout much of central Europe was characterized as a reformation. Their goal was to go farther than most in changing the church to be faithful to Scripture and return it to its original form. In that sense, they were not separatists, rather, they believed in the catholic church, small case. What they were about was the consolidation of all churches under biblical confessions of faith. Their motto thus became Semper Reformanda.

According to Michael Horton:


Our forebears who invoked this phrase had in mind the consolidation of catholic and evangelical Christianity embodied in the Reformed confessions and catechisms. There is a reason that this wing of the Reformation called itself “Reformed.” Unlike the Anabaptists, Reformed churches understood themselves as a continuing branch of the catholic church. At the same time, the Reformed wanted to reform everything “according to the Word of God.” Not only our doctrine but our worship and life must be determined by Scripture and not by human whim or creativity…

This perspective keeps us from making tradition infallible but equally from imbibing the radical Protestant obsession with starting from scratch in every generation. When God’s Word is the source of our life, our ultimate loyalty is not to the past as such or to the present and the future, but to “that Word above all earthly pow’rs,” to borrow from Luther’s famous hymn. Neither behind us nor ahead of us, but above us, reigns our sovereign Lord over His body in all times and places. When we invoke the whole phrase — “the church Reformed and always being reformed according to the Word of God” — we confess that we belong to the church and not simply to ourselves and that this church is always created and renewed by the Word of God rather than by the spirit of the age.

Where the ideas of the reformers caught on, typically, the people enjoyed profound changes in their lives. Entire systems of governance were changed and whole societies were affected, and in the process the modern era was born. The United States and its form of governance is the direct result of this history. During the time of the Revolutionary War, the rebellion was often characterized as the Presbyterian revolt, or the Calvinist conspiracy. The freedoms we have today can be clearly traced to those 95 Theses tacked on the door of Wittenburg’s Schlosskirche (Castle Church).

The solemn cry of Reformation Day is captured in what is called the five solas:

Faith alone (Sola Fide) means that justification comes through faith only, not good works, though in the classical Reformed scheme, saving faith will always be accompanied by good works. Faith alone is best summarized with “Faith yields justification and good works.” In opposition to it is the form of religion that formulates any scheme, “Faith and good works yield justification.” The faith alone doctrine is sometimes called the material cause of the Reformation because it was the central doctrinal issue for Martin Luther.

Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura) means that the Bible is the only inspired and authoritative Word of God and is accessible to all (that is, perspicuous and self-interpreting). This doctrine is directly opposed to the teaching of the Catholic Church that Scripture can only be authentically interpreted through Holy Apostolic Tradition by the “Magisterium” (that is, the teaching authority of the Pope and bishops at church councils). Neither is any philosophical rationalism, nor any other scheme of man to take precedence above Scripture. This doctrine is sometimes called the formal cause of the Reformation because it was the underlying cause of disagreement over sola fide.

Christ alone (Solus Christus) means that Christ is the exclusive mediator between God and man. Neither Mary, the saints, nor priests can act as mediator in bringing salvation. Nor can any action by anyone intervene. There is no means, no sacrifice that can be made by man which can stand in the place of Christ. Through him and his works alone can anyone approach the throne of grace. This doctrine is contrasted with the Catholic doctrines of the intercession of saints and of the mediation of the priests and the offerings of sacrifices on behalf of the people in any form.

Grace alone (Sola Gratia) means that salvation comes by grace only, not through any merit on the part of the sinner. Thus salvation is an unearned gift. It is purely monergistic, a work done by God in man who is given faith so that he might receive all that Christ has done. This doctrine is a response to the Catholic synergistic doctrine whereby acts of man become meritorious, even the act of faith, by cooperating with God’s grace.

Glory to God alone (Soli Deo Gloria) means that all the glory is due to God alone, since he did all the work. It was not only the atonement on the Cross, but even granting the faith, purchased by that work on the cross, by which men will, without fail, repent and believe on Christ so as to be saved by that atonement. The Reformers believe that human beings, all their works, and all their organizations are not worthy of the glory that was bestowed on them. After all has been said and done, the faithful consider themselves unworthy servants, and that to God alone belongs the glory.

Reformation Day doesn’t get the press it deserves. It is overshadowed by All Saints Day Eve. But which holds the greater importance? This year, RD comes just a few days before a major election and will make it more of an obscurity. As Protestant Christians, at least, we shouldn’t forget that on Sunday we will attend a church that exists because of the Reformation. On the following Tuesday, we will vote as participants in a government that without the Reformation would not have existed to protect us so that we might attended a church on Reformation Sunday.

On Sunday, let us remember the sola reasons, and be thankful that we can do any of this.

Albert Mohler’s Prior Scandal — An Absence of Accountability

But, as Tom Breen of the Associated Press reports, the larger issue here is the lack of accountability in many Christian ministries and independent mega-churches.

As he reports:

It’s too early to say whether the sex allegations against Bishop Eddie Long, the famed pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta, will spur the kind of soul-searching that followed the downfall of the Rev. Ted Haggard in Colorado.

Regardless, pastors and experts say the Long case demonstrates how vulnerable the country’s independent churches still are to being damaged by the misbehavior – sexual, financial or otherwise – of leaders whose considerable influence often comes with temptation and little accountability.

via AlbertMohler.com – The Prior Scandal — An Absence of Accountability.

See also: AlbertMohler.com – It Takes a Court to Define Sin?.

One thing that we must account for is that Mohler himself belongs to an organization of independent Baptist churches in which no true accountability exists. That being said he is correct, where there is not intra- and inter- church accountability, the door is wide-open for corruption of the Gospel and the piety that it should engender.

The courts do not define sin, nor do churches, nor do conventions or denominations, Scripture does. Yet, God has given us the government of the church to hold to account, not just its members, but the several congregations that make up the catholic body of Christ. Laying distinctives aside for a moment, the real issue that Dr. Mohler is addressing is autonomy, the heart-throb of the very SBC to which he belongs. He says:

The prior scandal in so many of these cases is the lack of accountability in these ministries. Many of these independent mega-church pastors are defacto dictators, totally without accountability structures. The congregations lack the discipline of a denomination and the pastors or leaders often lack any accountability at all.

Addressing for a moment the controversy about whether the SBC is a denomination or a convention, let’s just say this; as a convention it operates as a co-op, but as a bureaucratic structure it operates as a denomination. Even at that, the central dogma of its organization is the independence of the autonomous local church which is not held accountable to anyone but its congregants. There are no central tenets which form a core belief structure required by its constitution, so there is no constitutional authority by which the non-denomination denomination of the SBC can discipline any of its members. Which often means capitulation to the very dictatorships that Mohler describes. All that Mohler says about the dangers of unaccountable pastors and churches falls squarely at the doorstep of the SBC. It is a prime leader, the exemplar in the defense of the potential corrupted church. There is nothing in the SBC constitution that even allows for the discipline of sister congregations except for the clause on homosexuality (a rare, one time only insertion that was more a political statement than an apologetic one). In reality, the SBC’s churches are the example that people like Eddie Long have modeled their churches after.

Getting back to Ergun Caner and the Liberty University scandal, the lack of accountability is the reason that it exists and persists. It is Mohler’s own institution that promotes by its historic establishment the potential of abuse. It is telling that many within and without the SBC who operate under the misguided and unfortunate paradigm of autonomy have so fiercely defended Caner’s claim to impunity for the sins he has committed.

So we ask, is Dr. Mohler suggesting that the SBC become a true denomination, with a defined confession and a book of church order which would demand that its several churches, their ministers, and their people toe the line of the necessary practices and doctrines that make for a system of “true church” government? Is he suggesting that a more or less presbyterian system become the standard? We can only hope. The SBC, for over a century, has been rocked with the scandal of syncretistic modernism, a big tent mentality, that allows for any and all to join and believe what they want, which can only set the stage to pervert its ranks. The fact is, what we find in the SBC is nothing short alphabet soup purée doctrinally and in practice. Such is the legacy of E. Y. Mullins, past president of the SBC in the heyday of early modernism. Unfortunately the entire camp caved into the allurement of becoming relevant to the world to attract as the big ten revivalism took over. The results have been the sacrifice of quality of knowledge and piety for the fortune of church growth.

The Eddie Longs, the Ergun Caners, are all the offspring of this notion that autonomy and independence is good. One need only look at the historical record of independent, autonomous churches to find that the end of them is not good. The world watches as incestuous churches justify their own behaviors and that of their chosen cult leaders or founding dictators and even of their members and staff. It laughs as it sees that those churches are more like the world than the world is like itself. The world at least, for the most part, understands the necessity of a defined, unifying belief system and the rule of law. Independent churches flaunt their autonomy and have become less submitted to governance than any other people group.

The U. S.. It is a presbyterian form of governance where representatives (elders) are chosen from among the people in multiplicity, to govern, not as to what please the electorate, but in a manner as to achieve the highest right and good. This is not happenstance, but the founders purposely paralleled what is evident in Scripture. What is not found there is the concept of independent, autonomous governments. If it had, the U.S. would have remained a vulnerable, disjointed hodge-podge of private estates, hamlets and colonies. From local representatives, others are chosen to represent the states. If the U.S. were a denomination, those states would be presbyteries in their own right. And those presbyteries in turn would be made up of representative elders of the many communions. In the world, those are called communities. We call them churches. But even the communities and their people subscribe to The Constitution, a set of by-laws, known as statutes, and a confessional creed we oft repeat, but don’t recognize as such, the Pledge of Allegiance.

Loraine Boettner noted what others have said:

In his book, “The Creed of Presbyterians,” E. W. Smith asks concerning the American colonists, “Where learned they those immortal principles of the rights of man, of human liberty, equality and, self-government, on which they based their Republic, and which form today the distinctive glory of our American civilization? In the school of Calvin they learned them. There the modern world learned them. So history teaches,” (p. 121).

We shall now pass on to consider the influence which the Presbyterian Church as a Church exerted in the formation of the Republic. “The Presbyterian Church,” said Dr. W. H. Roberts in an address before the General Assembly, “was for three-quarters of a century the sole representative upon this continent of republican government as now organized in the nation.” And then he continues: “From 1706 to the opening of the revolutionary struggle the only body in existence which stood for our present national political organization was the General Synod of the American Presbyterian
Church. It alone among ecclesiastical and political colonial organizations exercised authority, derived from the colonists themselves, over bodies of Americans scattered through all the colonies from New England to Georgia. The colonies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it is to be remembered, while all dependent upon Great Britain, were independent of each other. Such a body as the Continental Congress did not exist until 1774. The religious condition of the country was similar to the political. The Congregational Churches of New England had no connection with each
other, and had no power apart from the civil government. The Episcopal Church was without organization in the colonies, was dependent for support and a ministry on the Established Church of England, and was filled with an intense loyalty to the British monarchy. The Reformed Dutch Church did not become an efficient and independent organization until 1771, and the German Reformed Church did not attain to that condition until 1793. The Baptist Churches were separate organizations, the Methodists were practically unknown, and the Quakers were non-combatants.” Delegates met every year in the General Synod, and as Dr. Roberts tells us, the Church became “a bond of union and correspondence between large elements in the population of the divided colonies.” “Is it any wonder,” he continues, “that under its fostering influence the sentiments of true liberty, as well as the tenets of a sound gospel, were preached throughout the territory from Long Island to South Carolina, and that above all a feeling of unity between the Colonies began slowly but surely to assert itself? Too much emphasis cannot be laid, in connection with the origin of the nation, upon the influence of that ecclesiastical republic, which from 1706 to 1774 was the only representative on this continent of fully developed federal republican institutions. The United States of America owes much to that oldest of American Republics, the Presbyterian Church.”192

You see, the reason that the U.S. has continued as long as it has, is that is has the rule of law. But not just within isolated, independent, autonomous hamlets, or colonies. Unfortunately, what systems of contrivances for convenience as set up such as the cooperative effort of the SBC, typically have is no law at all. They are called conventions for a reason. They have no law and rightly cannot be called a denomination. As each member is allowed to establish its own rule of law, it makes mockery of such a concept. What is established is not the democratic republicanism that we have come to cherish, rather, autonomous bodies are a reversion to the very systems of abuse that were the fashion in European governance.

That is the true Christian scandal today. Or at least, that is the reason for so much scrutiny by the enemies of the church upon it. It is true that even with a sound government there can be all sorts of corruptions. From Acts to Revelations we see that. No matter though, what the world cannot say when a true governing system is in place, when layers of accountability are in place, both intra and inter-church, is that there was no government to call to account. What the world loves is self-serving, chaos, anarchy, and the survival of the fittest. What they live by is the rule of law, even so. What the government of the church should be is a system that is founded upon the highest pursuit, His kingdom and his righteousness. Pursue those and then all things will be added to it. The church is a kingdom ruled in righteousness which means it must have those attributes of a kingdom to be part of one. Allow for independence, autonomy (self-law) and you will end up where the world is headed, to what they believe and what they are beginning to live.

Mohler has pointed out is a needed focus. Unfortunately, even the most articulate scholar can be blinded by his own traditions. To wit, Mohler asks:

What about at your church?

I ask, to whom is your church accountable? If you say the congregation, you’re right back to square one. But that is the system to which Mohler subscribes. Even with a multiplicity of elders, which is what I believe he is appealing, there is the threat of oligarchy. The multiple layers of accountability upon which the United States was founded is soundest idea. But that means, independent Southern Baptist Churches are founded upon the shifting sands of self-law, of fiefdoms, and not of the Kingdom. For they have no federal head as Boettner’s examples describe the Presbyterianism that was the seed-bed of the U. S. Indeed, they have no accountability to the SBC church across the street. They don’t even have to have the same law, or even the same core belief system.

One of the aspects that has secured our freedoms and the long-lasting integrity of the nation is the notion federalism and shared/separation of powers. From the local governments to state, to federal, we see the inter-working or mutual accountability and its great benefit is securing our freedom, but also, in encouraging all to do what is right and good for that benefit we call the general welfare. In the church we might say, let all things be done in love to the building up of one another. To that end we secure the privacy of individualism though the Ten Commandments, while at the same time the obligations of the individual toward the society of believers through laws equally applicable to all by those same commandments.

What I am not suggesting is an international church, nor even one that is a national church, at all be the norm. We have seen where such can lead. Neither is workable, nor tenable, given the diversity of opinions as to what makes a church a church. And I am not suggesting any form of ecumenical arrangement. What I am suggesting is that independent autonomous churches, are not churches at all. The world watches to see just what we find so appealing about the church. And it is this, we find a rock solidness. Even in the most benign organizations there tends to be more accountability than in the independence movements like the SBC. A man, even those who find solace in being alone, long for that true relationship of community. Or, what we call communion, or common union. One would think that the dying light of evangelicalism would shine much brighter if the leaders of evangelicalism’s independent churches would at least make the overtures that they no longer can sustain the myth that independence finds its part of the body of Christ. Until churches can demonstrate that they have learned the lesson of unaccoutability, the world will find their solidarity elsewhere.