Archives For Shepherding

It is said that there are creatures in the depths of the oceans that remain undiscovered to this day. Astronomers keep finding new stars and new planets each and every year that, for millennia, have been seen only by God.  Every undiscovered animal, plant, and planet brings glory to God by the mere fact that He sees them, and He gets glory from their beauty even if He is the only one who knows that they exist.

In much the same way, despite the fact that there is much to be discouraged about when we look around at the situation in churches today, I do believe that there is, also, much to be encouraged about. I believe that God has men whom He has specifically placed around the world that bring Him glory every single Sunday, and no one other than their congregations know anything about them.

Last week I went on vacation with my family. And since we were on vacation on a Sunday, I looked for a church for us to attend. It wasn’t the easiest choice to make as zero churches came up on the TMS and 9 Marks church finder websites, but eventually, I settled on a church based on a Google search. We showed up right as it was starting. The first song began. As I walked into the room, there were about 40-50 people present. My expectations were not very high based on previous vacation experiments we had tried.

Continue Reading…

After a brief hiatus (things can get crazy around here during Shepherds’ Conference time!), we’re back to our study of dealing with in in the church from 2 Corinthians 2:5–11. Once again, I encourage you to read the other posts in the series if you haven’t already, as we’ve examined the first four stages of faithful, successful church discipline. First, there is the harmful sin that makes discipline necessary; second, there’s the corporate discipline itself; third, there is genuine repentance from the sinning party; and fourth, there is comforting forgiveness granted to the repentant brother or sister.

Restoration

That brings us to the fifth and final stage of dealing with sin in the church that Paul outlines for us in this passage. And that is: the loving reaffirmation of a repentant, forgiven sinner. We see that clearly as we look again at verses 6 through 8: “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.”

Continue Reading…

Over the years I’ve seen that one of the most powerful moments in a new believer’s life is the realization that there is such a thing as a false convert. The sudden realization that salvation is not dependent on a prayer, a baptism or family history propels true believers to a whole other dimension in their walk with Christ. They begin to examine themselves properly (2 Cor 13:5), they become more evangelistic, they care more about theology and they appreciate being at church so much more. Understanding the fact that false converts are a reality is so important for those who call themselves Christians.

dying plantAs we saw last week, there are few things more disappointing than when someone from our church walks away from the Lord. Especially when you’ve spent countless hours not only teaching and discipling that person, but you have shared a myriad of hours of ministry with him.

Maybe at some point in the grieving process, you will wonder why you weren’t able to tell that he was a false convert. Maybe you question your ability to discern over the fact that you were unable to tell, and you are beating yourself over the head.

Philip was one of the first deacons in the Church. He was selected by the disciples to be one of the seven to serve the tables in Acts 6:1-6, and he went on to becomes an incredible evangelist soon after that. In fact, when Stephen was martyred, Philip was the one who was sent to Samaria and Judea in order to spread the Gospel past the confines of Jerusalem. And we see that the Lord used him greatly. But, what we also see is the first false convert. Simon, the magician, was a man whom the people practically worshiped. He was able to do incredible tricks that caused the people to say to themselves, “This man has what is called the Great Power of God.”  When Philip showed up, the Bible tells us that 1) he believed, 2) he was baptized, and 3) he continued on with Philip. As soon as Peter and John showed up, though, we realize that Simon was a false convert and we are left wondering how did Philip miss it? Perhaps Philip was left wondering how he missed it as well.

Of course, no amount of time spent discipling people is wasted time, but there is a sense in which we want to use our time wisely and be able to water where the grass is green, rather than spend our time watering dead grass. Is there a way to tell? Is there a way to be able to recognize the sheep from among the goats in this life? Well, Simon had four red flags that Luke points out in the short story of Acts 8:9-24 which we can apply to all false converts. These don’t encompass all the red flags, but they are a helpful start. So, here are four characteristics of a false convert.

Continue Reading…

1025_Atrophy

wikipedia

If you’ve ever broken a bone, you recall something about that associated muscle; atrophy. Due to low attention and use, a muscle will become weak and emaciated, or atrophied. A muscle in this state is feeble and of less use to the body.

The same can occur spiritually in the lives of Christian. If we fail to give proper attention to the biblical process of sanctification, we can unnecessarily weaken our souls. And, when a church leadership shepherds with a weak approach to sanctification, they risk endangering souls in many ways.

With that, here are a few risks of taking an atrophied approach to sanctification:

Continue Reading…

“Oh wow! A lady from my church just called my wife to tell her she found out her husband has committed adultery! I think he’s leaving her.”

That’s the sentence a pastor friend of mine said last week during our conversation. While we were catching up, he had received a phone call but he ignored it since we were talking; then he got the text. Here we were at a pastors’ conference enjoying fantastic preaching and great fellowship, when, suddenly, this text served as a striking reminder that ministry never stops. It doesn’t matter how far we travel, across the country or across the world, we can’t escape the realities of ministry.

I don’t have much experience in ministry, but I can confidently say that the most difficult part of it is when people walk away from the Lord. Of course, the death of fellow saints is painful, but our theology allows us to be joyful at the same time; unbelievers rejecting the Gospel is sad, but it is expected apart from God opening their eyes. It must be said that there is nothing like having someone with whom you’ve spent hours with, discussing Scripture, theology, doing evangelism with them, and spending Sunday after Sunday singing incredible truths with, only to watch them walk away from it all in order to satisfy some worldly temporary pleasure while forsaking the church that Christ died for.  Thomas Watson’s words ring true when he said, “What a fool who, for a drop of pleasure, would drink in a sea of wrath.”

What are we to do?  How are we to think about it?  It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a pastor for decades and have watched dozens of people walk away, or if you’re new in the ministry and it has happened only a handful of times, I imagine that it is something you never get used to and, perhaps, as we get older and our joy to see Jesus increases, our disappointment over those who walk away only tends to get stronger. So, how do we think through this? You don’t have to be a pastor to experience this tragedy. Here are four reminders we need when someone close to us in the church walks away.

Continue Reading…

struggles

writingartsandalittlemore.files.wordpress.com

Hard circumstances surround us about as much as air. From a flat tire on a rainy day, to opposition from friends, to family scuffles, to grave illness, and more, we will not remain insulated from difficulty.

And our responding to the inevitable can make all the difference. On one end, we can, by God’s grace, respond with God at the center so as to honor him. On the other, we can respond with self at the center so as to send ourselves into a whirlpool of error and anger. None of it is easy. At times, we can get into patterns where unbiblical responding becomes second nature (or first). If you have struggled like I have to maintain a God-centered perspective in struggles, you may need a biblical mirror held up to help facilitate change.

Here are a few adjustments we might need to make in our perspective as difficulty hits:

Continue Reading…

Norma McCorvey passed away at age 69 on Saturday.

Her journey to notoriety began in June 1969 when she attempted to get an abortion. Her lying failed to secure legal permission, and her scheme to obtain an illegal abortion also ended unsuccessfully. She then gathered a diabolical duo of fee-hungry attorneys to gear up for a protracted legal fight. Fortuitously, the baby reached full term before the menacing lawsuit did, and in 1970 the suit was filed under the alias Jane Roe. The Dallas County DA was Henry Wade, and thus the infamous case was christened Roe v. Wade.one missing

By the time the case popped out of the Supreme Court, the law was on the side of executing unborn people, a monstrous legality that began to rapidly and incessantly devour millions of unborn babies. Legally.

The rest, as they say, is history. And a bloody one at that.

But in 1994, Norma McCorvey flipped sides. She made the acquaintance of pastor Flip Benham who ran a pro-life outfit based adjacent to the pro-choice reproductive health clinic (read: infant abattoir) where McCorvey was working.

On her outdoor smoke breaks she would engage in heated banter with the pro-lifer next door. She eventually began to see him as a caring man, and even agreed to visit his church. Within a year she publicly declared that she had converted to Christianity, and was baptized in a backyard pool on national television.
Continue Reading…

February 17, 2017

Forgiven People Forgive

by Mike Riccardi

ForgiveWell, we’re back to our series on dealing with sin in the church from Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11. If you haven’t read the other posts in this series, I’d encourage you to do so. We’ve been moving through the stages of faithful, successful discipline, and have seen three of them so far. First, there is the harmful sin that makes discipline necessary; second, there’s the corporate discipline itself; and third, there is, we hope, genuine repentance. The fourth stage, after there has been genuine repentance, is comforting forgiveness. Paul says, “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, 7so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”

Here we glean a principle that needs to take root in the soil of every Christian’s heart: where there is repentance, there is forgiveness. When a sinner repents, the church forgives. And though the original events of this text lead us to apply this principle first of all to cases of corporate church discipline, we all need to hear this point in light of our own duty to forgive those who sin against us personally. When a sinner repents, Christians forgive.

Continue Reading…

RepentanceToday we continue in our series on dealing with sin in the church, in which we’ve been looking to Paul’s instruction in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11, which we’ve said provides us with five stages of successful church discipline.

The first of those stages is the sin that makes discipline necessary. In examining Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:5, we focused particularly on the corporate nature of sin in the church: “But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you.” Even though the conflict was primarily between one man and the Apostle Paul, sin’s harm is never restricted to the offender and the offended. Because of the essential interconnectedness of the body of Christ, sin in even one part of the body brings sorrow to the entire church (1 Cor 12:26). The spiritual health of the body as a whole depends on the spiritual health of each member, and unrepentant sin in the body of Christ is a spiritual cancer. If left unchecked, sin will infect the whole body until it destroys all spiritual life. Because sin is so serious, it must be confronted and dealt with.

The second stage in this process is the discipline itself, “the punishment which was inflicted by the majority” (2 Cor 2:6). This “punishment” (epitimia) is a legal term that refers to an official disciplinary act, and it is to be carried out “by the majority.” The church had a formal gathering, and deliberated upon this matter, and rendered a verdict. This is none other than the outworking of the process of formal, organized, official church discipline. If there has been no repentance, the church is instructed to remove the man or woman in question from the fellowship of the body (Matt 18:17; 1 Cor 5:5, 13; 2 Thess 3:6, 14; Tit 3:10). While some might think this to be spiteful or harsh, it is the most loving thing that the church can do for a sinning brother. He needs to be made to feel the error of his ways. Though it may be painful, excluding him from the life of the church may be the only way to induce that godly sorrow that leads to repentance.

Continue Reading…

DisciplineOver the past couple of weeks, we’ve been examining what the New Testament says about dealing with sin in the church. To learn how the church is to deal with sin in its midst, we’ve turned principally to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11. There, Paul discusses his dealings with a sinning member of the Corinthian church who has now repentant and seeking restoration to the fellowship of the church at Corinth. However, the church is struggling to accept this repentant brother because of the severity of his sin and the way it has affected Paul himself. Paul writes to encourage the church to restore him. In that passage, Paul outlines five stages of successful church discipline (or perhaps better termed, church restoration). Two weeks ago, we took a look at the first stage, which was the harmful sin that makes discipline necessary. This week, we look to stage number two, which is corporate discipline.

2 Corinthians 2:6 says, “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority.”

The word that gets translated “punishment,” is epitimía. It’s a technical, legal term that in secular Greek refers to an official disciplinary act. And this official act of discipline was carried out “by the majority.” That is to say, the church had a formal gathering, and deliberated upon this matter, and rendered a verdict. This is none other than the outworking of the process of formal, organized, official church discipline.

Continue Reading…