Friday, February 02, 2007

The Pastor as Leader - Part 3

The first two sections of this panel discussion can be found here.

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Church discipline is something that is not really practiced today. What kinds of experiences of church discipline have you had and how do you deal with it? How do you discipline unsaved children? Is there a distinction between a baptized member of the church and unsaved children of members?

C: Yes. I wouldn’t discipline those who are not part of the church.

K: With regards to church discipline, there is the discipline of the preaching of the Word of God. If the Word is consistently preached and applied properly then you can avoid many problems. There is a gradation of church discipline. Excommunication is a last resort. If prior steps are taken properly, then that will not be the end result. If you’re speaking about unbelieving children, you can’t really discipline them. You need to preach the gospel to them. There is nothing more to be done beyond that.

C: You need to be careful about how you deal with children growing up in the church. It’s a balance between making it too easy and too hard for them to enter the kingdom of God. You need to counsel parents to be wise about how they deal with their child’s salvation.

K: Be careful that you don’t put children on a pedestal. Children who ended up in Bible college were exalted in the church and some of them are now apostate. The ones who were shunned are the ones that stayed the course to this day. We encourage our children to trust in Christ, but until they’re out the door and on their own you’ll never really know their spiritual state. You need to be careful. Often youth ministry is allowing children to believe they’re saved when they’re really not.

C: I highly recommend A Child’s Profession of Faith put out by Jim Elliff of Christian Communicators Worldwide.

K: Children often come to parents and talk about spiritual things. Children want to please and you need to be careful. At the same time, my wife believes she was saved when she was 6 years old. On the other hand, there were many times I responded to altar calls, but was not really converted.

C: For each of my children who wanted to be baptized, I had another elder examine the authenticity of their faith because I couldn’t trust my own motives.

K: You’re looking for God’s grace to be manifested at the age level appropriate to the child. I have baptized as young as 8 years old, but I was very careful about that.

There are sometimes very harsh cutoff between leaving the youth group and entering the ‘adult’ congregation. They reject all authority and don’t become members of the church because they want discipline.

K: There’s a spiritual problem

C: It probably manifests itself at home.

D: People who don’t want to become members are suspect. Their conversion is questionable.

C: You need to teach them. After you’ve taught them, they no longer have an excuse about what church membership means.

K: Baptism is a declaration of becoming part of the church. There is no distinction in the NT.

Do we blur the line between a church member and church attender?

P: What is your philosophy of membership? You don’t minister if you’re not a member.

D: You do have to be patient with people because culturally they are not accustomed to the idea of church membership. You need to allow people to grow in the Lord and give them time to accept the idea.

“Spiritual journey” is jargon that is floating around today. Their argument is something like, “When did Peter (the apostle) ever become converted?” How do we strike a balance between true conversion and people who are simply interested in spirituality?

K: Theologically, you need to be very careful about using the apostles as paradigms for conversion experiences. The disciples don’t come into that full new covenant awareness until the Holy Spirit is breathed upon them. There needs to be whole soul commitment to Christ (John Murray).

What should I be looking for in young people in terms of evidences of conversion, especially when their educational background is minimal?

K: Start with the basics.

C: You want to look for basic signs of life. Is there a desire to pray or know Christ or conviction of sin? There have to be some indications of change in their lives by their fruit.

K: Jesus Christ is a person. He calls us to follow Him. A Christian is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not someone who simply fills out a card. It is someone who commits to following Christ and obeying His commandments. Therefore, we need to tell people what the Bible insists on and then expect a response from there. If we use all the right words, if they’re not converted there is no point in teaching them to obey Christ.

D: Just continue to faithfully preach about Christ and talk about sin. Invite people to come and talk to you and take them through a gospel like Mark. God is sovereign and He will call people to Himself. We have to keep in mind that Jesus sometimes almost discouraged people from following Him, to count the cost and so on.

C: There is an urgency to preaching in the sense that you may never see them again.

K: Bill Hybels once said that when you’re talking to people about the gospel you are calling upon them to make the biggest decision of their lives. You need to give people enough information to make that decision and the time to make that decision. Jesus never hurried people into conversion, but taught them accordingly. When you’re asking people to come to Christ, you’re asking for the greatest thing that can ever occur.

C: Sometimes, God is doing things in people’s hearts that you may never know about.

P: There is great freedom to be a Calvinistic evangelist. You can confront people without any anxiety because it’s not up to you at all. George Whitefield wept for their sins because they wouldn’t themselves. It’s easy to despair early on in ministry because there is no fruit, but it will come.

K: Spurgeon was once criticized for not seeing people right after the service. But “if the fire is lit on Sunday it will stay lit on Monday and Tuesday.”