It’s an important question. If we are looking for a faithful church to be part of. If we are looking towards being involved in pastoral ministry. If we are wanting to be good members and servants of our church week by week. We need to know how to approach this thing which is the centrepiece of God’s eternal plan, the bride of Christ, the agent of mission, the great means of grace and growth for God’s children.
There are various different ways to express the key marks of a healthy, biblical, God-honouring church. Tony Merida a pastor a trainer in the Acts 29 network gives the following in Nature, Marks and Purpose of The Church:
- Headship of Christ
- Rightly appointed leaders equipping the saints for ministry
- True believers
- gathering regularly
- hearing the gospel of Christ preached [see Merida, Christ-Centered Expository Preaching – Merida]
- receiving the sacraments rightly administered
- under the exercise of church discipline
To these Merida adds that the Nature of the church is ‘called out’ people and the great Goal of the church is worship (to declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light) which will happen as people from all nations are brought to the joyful worship and obedience of disciples (the great commission).
A somewhat overlapping list of marks is given by Mark Dever in his Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. His emphasis is not so much on the essential nature of the church but on those aspects of church practice which are most in danger of being lost in the contemporary church:
- Expositional Preaching
- Biblical Theology
- The Gospel
- A Biblical Understanding of Conversion
- A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
- A Biblical Understanding of Church Membership
- Biblical Church Discipline
- A Concern for Discipleship and Growth
- Biblical Church Leadership
For a short explanation of each mark with Bible references and a video see the 9Marks site. Dever has also floated a possible tenth mark – Church that is outward-looking.
iServe Africa does not seek to be a church or take the place of a local church or distract from the local church. Rather iServe Africa seeks to serve and partner with local churches. Pray with us for the churches of Kenya and for our pastors. Pray for faithful Bible teaching and servant leadership in our churches. Pray for a concern for the lost and for leadership development. Pray for spiritually healthy churches and spiritually healthy members.
It has been great to have two weeks together, particularly preparing the new group of apprentices as they go out into challenging mission placements all over Kenya (and beyond). Second Timothy was one of our main texts for the fortnight and our expositors drew out very clearly for us that what the Lord is seeking is not creativity but faithfulness.
We don’t need to invent a clever new strategy to guard and propagate the gospel. We just need to implement the divine strategy we have been given:
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will be able to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)
And we don’t need to scratch our heads wondering what to preach. We have been commanded:
Preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:2)
As Martin Luther put it, we are to be captive to the Word of God. Charles Simeon put that into practice in his long expository ministry:
I have a great jealousy on this head; never to speak more or less than I believe to be
the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding.
Ever-faithful Lord, please give us faithfulness.
Apprentice resources and links from this MTC:
2nd years and January cohort:
It’s been great to get into Colossians in the current (ongoing) ministry training course. I thought I’d gather here a few helpful resources on the letter as a whole:
But actually, good as these resources are, I’ve found over the last week that there’s nothing like getting into the letter itself. It was great to read the letter all through together and then to get into it, section by section, digging in, discussing in small groups, seeing the flow of the letter but more than anything seeing wonderful things about Jesus and the riches and fullness that are in him.
Paul says, “Him we proclaim” (Col. 1:28) and that is certainly what he does in his letter to the Colossians. Let it be our delight to sit under that proclamation and listen well.
A couple more resources springing from our Colossians studies at MTC:
As we enter our tenth year of ministry apprenticeships, join us to give thanks for what the Lord has done in many lives and to send out more servants into His harvest field.
Dale Ralph Davis begins his commentary on Judges by explaining why he’s not going to give his own introduction:
“…an excellent piece of work has already been done by the author of the book, and I am not capable of writing a better one. Indeed, I have a growing conviction that we would find far more fun and profit in Bible study if we gave more heed to the introductions the biblical writers themselves prefaced to their works than to the welter of opinions (helpful as they may be) about a biblical book, drearily culled from the last two hundred years of biblical scholarship. We do better, I think, to jump straight into the biblical text and get dirty with its ink.”
Alec Motyer, in his masterful commentary on Isaiah similarly describes the first five chapters of Isaiah as the “author’s preface.” In a 544 page commentary Motyer gives only 21 pages to his own scholarly and thematic introduction but 33 pages to Isaiah’s “author’s preface.”
So how does Isaiah introduce his own prophecy? In the first chapter alone we are introduced to:
- The title declaring that the whole book – all 66 chapters – is one coherent vision received in the time of these particular kings, long before some of the events that are spoken of (Cyrus etc.). This is dismissed by liberal scholars who cannot conceive of genuine predictive prophecy but it is a key theme throughout Isaiah – that the LORD God, in contrast to the idols, knows and determines the future.
- The bitterness and complexity of sin: covenant breaking, ingratitude, rebellion, stupidity, evil doing, abandonment, a battered body, beginning to taste judgment, disgusting religiosity, stained crimson, spiritual prostitution, worthlessness. This is the mess into which Isaiah speaks and into which the Messiah will come to deal with exactly this great problem.
- Themes of hope that will be developed through the rest of the book of Isaiah:
- Surviving remnant – a brand plucked by grace from the burning
- Law court cleansing – deliverance and purification with justice
- Heart change – from rebels who love sin to those who are ashamed and willing
- Restored city – the prostitute city will become the faithful city once more
Thank God for the gospel of Isaiah. And that he very kindly gave us an introduction.
It’s been a good half term looking at gospel-driven sanctification, the letter of 1 Corinthians and thinking about other religions. Here are some of the notes and resources:
Tim Chester, Captured by a better vision: Living porn-free, IVP, 2010, 169 pages. Reviewed by Kelvin Macharia:
When it comes to sexual purity, the struggle is real. All around us we find sexually suggestive material, from the TV adverts to magazines and billboards. And social media, though helpful in some ways, has only made things worse with its ever inviting sexually suggestive images. Perhaps the biggest threat of my generation has been mobile devices which are easily accessible today. And with fast affordable internet on these devices almost everywhere in the country, pornography is now only a click away.
No doubt pornography is damaging, and that is why Tim Chester has written this wonderful book – to help those that have been under the snares of pornography and its evil twin sister masturbation. Many have fallen victim to this monster, and sadly Christians have not been left out either. This book seeks to help the struggler understand the root of the matter. A friend I know puts it this way, “the heart of the matter is always a matter of the heart”, and surely pornography is a heart issue. To fix it, we need not simply start by installing anti-porn and accountability software, though of great importance no doubt. That is why Tim Chester has chosen to address the problem through this 5 step procedure;
- An abhorrence of porn – A hatred of porn not only because of the shame it brings but also for its ugliness. And this can be seen if you ‘look beyond the frame’ and see porn for what it truly is. It weakens our relationship with God, marriages are destroyed, children suffer as some are exposed to porn by unknowing parents, women are abused, reduced to lust objects and diminished, our view of sex is wrecked, our character is eroded, we become enslaved and we waste our time, energy and money. Look beyond the frame and you will hate porn.
- An adoration of God – God offers more than porn. Every reason that we can come up with to view porn is a twisted lie, and whatever satisfaction we hope to find in porn can only ultimately be found in God. Porn doesn’t satisfy, God does. Be freed by the beauty of God.
- Assurance of grace – We are justified in faith through grace. When God looks at us, he sees us clothed in Jesus’ righteousness. Focus on Christ who became sin so that we could become righteous. Self-righteousness is hopeless; be freed by the grace of God.
- Avoidance of temptation – Say ‘NO’ to temptation. Don’t feed it. Flee from temptation; be committed to do all in your power to avoid temptation. Read the word of God and replace the lies of porn with the Truths of God. Pray about it. Find an accountability partner. Fight the fight of faith!
- Choose to view sexuality, marriage, beauty, and singleness in biblical perspective – Everything is for the glory of God, be freed for the glory of God.
Tim Chester has a chapter on each of these five things in this order. A combination of these creates a strong enduring weapon against porn and masturbation. I found this book quite helpful. It combines Gospel truths with practical steps so that you not only fight porn but also embrace and delight in the truths of God.