Friday, April 19, 2013

The Church's Job Description

Today is the final day of week fifteen, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures today are:
Judges 19-21; Acts 2.

Right now, I find myself in a time of transition, in which I'm thinking a lot about job descriptions.  For those who don't yet know, I have accepted a call to serve as pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Scottsburg, Virginia.  Along with Beth and our kids, I will be leaving behind many dear friends and family in Fluvanna County, where I have served as pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Scottsville for seven years.  So as I think about my transition, my mind has been on job descriptions--what I need to do, and what I need to do differently.

Churches, as well as pastors, need to think about their job descriptions.  We can get really busy doing a lot of "good" things that sidetrack us from doing the most important things.  Don't get me wrong--churches need to have committees, boards, programs, projects, and emphases.  But what does the Bible say that churches really need to be about?  In 2013, I gave Acts 2:42 (ESV) to Antioch as a "Gold Nugget" verse.  This is a verse that will hopefully guide God's people throughout the year, helping to focus on what we really need to be about in the Kingdom.  Here's the longer passage below:

Are you devoted to teaching, fellowship, worship, & prayer?
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day,attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Let's take a look at these things in detail.

They devoted themselves...  This means that they were absolutely dedicated to what was going on at church.  It doesn't mean that they attended when they had nothing better to do.  It means they were totally committed to what God was doing in the body of Christ.  How's your level of commitment been lately?

The apostles' teaching...  Maybe your church doesn't have any living apostles, but certainly you have gifted teachers and preachers who have a lot to share.  They probably put a lot of work into the lessons that they teach.  Have you been availing yourself of their wisdom?  Have you been supporting them by attending Sunday school, worship, and other Bible studies?

Fellowship...  People who attend church only on Sunday mornings often miss out on the great fellowship that takes place when God's people get together simply to enjoy one another's company.  I hope you not only participate in the ritual exercises of your church, but that you are actually friends with the people that you call your "church family."  Close relationships strengthen believers and lay the foundation for real discipleship.

The Breaking of Bread...  In the early church, Communion was shared every Sunday at a weekly Agape (love) Feast.  This was part of worship.  So when the book of Acts refers to the breaking of bread, that's not just a redundant way of saying "fellowship" (even though some denominations would define "fellowship" as "eating together").  Instead, the breaking of bread is a synonym for worship.  God's people should be worshiping people.  Every church has some people who will attend Sunday school and not worship, and others who attend worship but not Sunday school.  Both are essential, if you want to be a well-rounded believer.  The natural response that the Christian should have to God's goodness is to praise and worship Him in the assembly of the saints.

Prayer...  It's been said that "the family that prays together stays together."  That's true of church families as well.  Bearing one another's burdens through prayer strengthens the bond that God's family has for one another.  It also makes a powerful difference, because prayer accomplishes things.  James 5:17 (ESV) says, "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."  

A lot of churches go through long, intensive periods of introspection and self-evaluation.  They strategize for growth and formulate statements of their goals, missions, and visions.  I'm not saying that these things are bad.  They can be an effective way of getting your head around why your church exists.  But when you boil down the results of such planning, I hope you'll find Acts 2:42 at the root.  And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  This is the church's job description.  

You may say, "Wait a minute...I don't see evangelism in that job description anywhere."  You're right.  That's because evangelism goes without saying.  It's the natural overflow of a spirit-led body of believers who are growing in the faith through godly teaching, prayer, worship, and fellowship.  Well-grounded Christians will hardly need to strategize their evangelistic efforts--they'll just happen.  Verses 43 and following are the result of what happens when believers follow verse 42.

  • People will have a sense of awe about what God is doing.
  • God will do signs and wonders through the leaders, among the believers.
  • Benevolent needs will be taken care of.
  • Relationships will grow.
  • The unsaved will be converted, and the saved will continue to be transformed.
As I'm thinking about the transition that I'm about to make, I've been pondering a pastor's job description.  I hope that your church, and you as a believer, will give thought to your church's job description.  The pastor can't do it alone.  He can't transform your church into the on-fire body of believers that God wants them to be.  Pastors can only lead as far as the people will follow.  The rest is up to you.  Will you be the kind of church member--the kind of Christian--who follows the job description given to you by our Lord in His Word?

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