Nov12TueNovember 12, 2019
This past Saturday, I grabbed a few tools and spent an hour disassembling our backyard trampoline while our kids played in the leaves. For the past few years, I have assembled and disassembled this large toy with all of its screws, springs, pads, and poles in order to keep the structure clean and dry throughout the winter with the hope that it will last for one more season of play. In so doing, I’ve discovered that every part is so important for it to be functional and safe for our kids. One lost spring, one bent pole, or one tear in the netting can render the entire structure unfit for use. In a similar way, the local church, like FMC, has a unique structure which needs special attention, care and precision. Each part must be working properly for the Body of Christ to be built up in love, to be an effective witness to the community and to stay focused on being an earthly dwelling place for the living God.
Over the past few weeks, our sermon series has focused on the unique and necessary elements which make the local congregation distinct from other organizations. We have been entrusted with the gospel, evangelism, conversion, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, membership, spiritual gifts and disciple-making. Most recently, we studied the unique roles of authority, given in the New Testament, to the congregation, to the Elders and to the Deacons. I’d like to revisit some of these themes for a moment because, just like the springs of a trampoline, they are crucial for the vitality of a congregation.
According to the New Testament, the local congregation has been given the ‘keys to the kingdom’ for binding and loosing (see Matthew 16 & 18). I understand this to mean that collective body has the authority to determine the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ in the church. Scripture seems to indicate that the church is appointed the task of affirming saving faith in individuals (Matthew 16:18-19) through means of public baptism, membership and spoken testimonies and affirming the gifting of leaders (Acts 15:22). Likewise, the collective body is described as the final court of appeals in maintaining the spiritual integrity of both its doctrine (Galatians 1:8) and its members (Matthew 18:17).
The Lord has also given unique “offices” of leadership in the church: Elders and Deacons.
Elders/Pastors/Bishops (Biblically synonymous titles) are instructed by God to ‘lead and feed.’ They are called to lead by overseeing, shepherding and modeling spiritual maturity (1 Peter 5:2-3, 1 Timothy 3:1, 5:17, Titus 1:7). They are called to feed by teaching, praying, caring and equipping (Titus 1:9, Acts 6:4, James 5:14, Ephesians 4:11-12).
Deacons are given the authority to serve and facilitate ministry within the body as an extension of the Elders (Acts 6:3, 1 Timothy 3:13, Romans 16:1-2). In my estimation, the Biblical structure is rightly summarized by Pastor and Author Jamie Dunlop. “Elders lead ministry. Deacons facilitate ministry. The Congregation does ministry.”
If you want to do your own reading on this subject, I encourage you to pick up a free copy of “Understanding the Congregation’s Authority” by Jonathan Leeman in the FMC Library or visit 9Marks.org.
As this series comes to a close, I encourage you to continue to look for these beautiful and distinct elements within FMC and celebrate them as they appear! It is important for all of us to remember that the church is not a business, an educational co-op, or just another generous non-profit group. We are a household of the living God, built upon Jesus Christ, guided by His Word and empowered by His Spirit. May we continue to grow in Biblical faithfulness and Christ-honoring vitality as 2020 nears!