Archive for January, 2012

Church Membership

January 23, 2012

Church membership is extremely important.  At first glance it may seem that there is little about it in the New Testament.  But as we study what the Scriptures say about the church we learn much about church membership.  In the New Testament various illustrations describe the church of Christ.

  1. ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE CHURCH

A number of different metaphors are used in the Bible to describe the people of God. The Church is referred to as a ‘flock’, a ‘vine’, a ‘nation’, a ‘temple’, a ‘bride’, and a ‘body’, to cite but a few descriptive terms. Of these, the term ‘body’, is one of the most frequently used descriptions and is not only a Biblical description, but a functional definition, too, (Eph. 4:13).  Each of the pictures of the church is a metaphor, an analogy from which we can learn a great deal.

The figure of the church as a body speaks of life, unity, action, of the value and necessity of each member, and especially of the Headship of Christ.

The church as a building composed of living stones (Eph. 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:5) speaks of plan,  structure, purpose, progress, and the indwelling of God by His Spirit.

The church as the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-32; Rev. 21:9,10) speaks of union with Christ, beauty, love, and the longing for the Bridegroom to return.

The branches speak of the life of Christ flowing through us, of fruitfulness and the pruning exercised by the Vine dresser.

II.         SOME IMPLICATIONS OF THE TERM “BODY OF CHRIST”

Let us begin with a tentative definition. The Body of Christ, the Church, is the visible manifestation of the living Christ in a company of disciples of Christ living in a prescribed geographical area who have entered into a committed relationship to each other. ‘Body’ implies visibility. The Holy Spirit, the life of the Body, is invisible, but the Body itself should be, in a sense, the visible manifestation of the Spirit of Christ. The Church, as the Body of Christ, is not only seen by God but by the world as well. The world should be able to observe the church’s behaviour and glorify God (I Pet. 2:12 cf. Matt. 5:16).

There is another looser definition which would speak of the Body of Christ as “all Christians of all ages who will one day be united in Christ at the end of time”. That also is a true definition. Indeed it is the ultimate. But we have no means of knowing just who belongs to it. Nor can we see it in its totality. Neither can we observe it functioning as a Body. The final manifestation of the Church of Christ as the Bride of Christ awaits the future God-given moment. In the meantime, the only Body of Christ we can see is the local one. Indeed most, if not all, of the references to the Body of Christ in the New Testament are local, not universal. Paul was writing to a specific Church (Corinthians) when he said, “You are the Body of Christ”. The two definitions are not contradictory but complementary, but the concept of the universal Body of Christ is rather theoretical and doctrinal, whereas the concept of the local Body of Christ is practical and functional. It is this latter definition we are mainly concerned about here.

The very nature of the analogy ‘body’ implies that there is a close, firm and permanent attachment of one member (limb) to another under the Headship of Christ. Only in this condition will life exist! The bloodstream in a physical body provides nourishment, cleansing, healing and many other things. This is only possible so long as the limbs are not severed. Of course, the body concept is only a metaphor, and where a believer is forced to be alone, through imprisonment or extreme isolation, the Lord will provide strength and sustenance in some other way (cf. I Kings 19:5­7). But if, through a spirit of rebellion or independence, through self-will, pride, or other sin, a professing Christian refuses to join a true local Church, that person cannot expect such special provision. And other Christians may be excused for wondering whether that person is truly born-again. It may be that they are truly born-again, but they lack teaching or hold false doctrine, which has enabled the sins already mentioned to get a hold on them.

III.       MEMBERSHIP OF THE BODY OF CHRIST

  1. Definition.

The word ‘member’ has two different, though related, meanings. It can mean one who belongs to a society or club or organization. It can also mean a part of the human body. It is the latter meaning which is found in the New Testament. When, for example, in I Cor. 12 Paul writes about ‘members’, he is not speaking about people who belong to an organization, but about the limbs of a body. We use the word ‘member’ in this sense when we speak about a body being ‘dis-membered’, that is having its limbs cut off. A member of a body is a limb, or some other part of the body, and that is the true meaning of Church membership. It is ‘limbship’. We are limbs or parts of the Body when we are members of a local Church.

  1. Application.

There are some strange and unscriptural ideas around concerning church membership.  A few evangelical churches do not believe in membership at all.  This would seem to be quite unbiblical, but may be due to misunderstanding.  If a person is asked, “Which Church do you belong to?” and replies, “the universal Church” (or some similar reply), no information has been given. Every Christian belongs to that! But every Christian is expected to be in fellowship with other believers. This is the local Church. A person who is not in fellowship, in a committed relationship, under pastoral care, is out of the will of God.

In the first place the New Testament speaks quite clearly of believers being members of the body of Christ (Rom.12:5; 1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 4:25).  This implies a visible connection.  In the second place we read of believers being added to the local church and being joined to the Lord (Acts 2:41,47; cf. 1Cor. 6:17) which implies a definite act of joining.

In the third place, how can pastors or elders care for the flock if they are not clear who they are, if they are not a clearly defined number?  The apostle Paul instructed the elders of Ephesus to take care of the flock of God. Acts 20:28 – “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”   This presupposes a known body of people which, whether there is a list or not, is membership of a specific group.  The elders  need to know them. Proverbs 27:23 – “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds.”

Peter urges the elders to shepherd the flock of God and speaks of those “entrusted” to them.

1 Peter 5:2‑3 –  “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; [3] nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”  If people are “entrusted “ to elders or pastors for spiritual care they need to know exactly who they are.  After all, they are to give an account for them. Hebrews 13:17 – “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”  You can only be accountable for people if you know precisely who they are.  That means there must be a specific membership of the flock.

In the fourth place, how can church discipline be carried out if there is no recognized membership?  If no one is ‘in’ membership they cannot be cast ‘out’. The word ‘member’ as used in the New Testament, is not to be identified with merely having your name on a church roll, keeping certain rules and contributing to the offering.  That has been described as ‘club type membership’.  New Testament church membership is being a ‘limb’ of a living body.

But here another misunderstanding arises.  Some evangelical churches agree that believers ought to be ‘in fellowship’, that is, in membership, but in order to avoid nominal membership and the ‘club’ image, have done away with membership lists altogether.  But they have missed the point.  Many churches without lists of members are as much like clubs as other ‘club-type’ churches.  Doing away with a list of members does not automatically deal with nominal membership.  Would that it were that easy! A list of members is purely an administrative convenience.  If Christians are in fellowship someone must know who they are, and therefore a list exists even if it is only in the minds of the elders!  Besides, there are plenty of lists in the New Testament (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 6:13-16; Matt. 10:2-4; Acts 1:13; 2:42, cf. 1 Tim. 5:9).  What was said about church discipline above applies here also.

In connection with belonging to a local church, consider each of those metaphors in turn.

If you were walking along the street and came across a severed human hand lying on the pavement you would recoil in horror.  But when a church member extends a hand to you, you do not recoil!  What is the difference?  In the former case the severed hand is gruesome and unnatural.  In the latter case the hand is attached to a living human body and is perfectly normal.  The word “member” in the New Testament really means a part of the body or  “limb”.  Membership is “limbship” We are all meant to be joined together as limbs to a body.

In connection with the analogy of the church members forming a building for the Lord’s dwelling, consider the difference between a pile of bricks and a well-designed building.  A pile of bricks has no order, is rather unsightly and fairly useless.  A building demonstrates design, order, structure, purpose, and hopefully, beauty.  Anyone can steal a brick from a pile, but it is much harder to steal a brick from the wall of a well-built building.  Again, a brick lying on the ground has five of its six sides exposed to the elements, but in a wall only one side is exposed.  Moreover, in a wall each brick is supported and in turn supports others.

As for the bride, a dis-membered bride hardly bears thinking about!

  1. Requirements for Membership.

To be an effective limb of the Body, there need to be two things: life and connection.

  1. Life

Life comes to us through the New Birth (Jn. 3:3,5). The evidence of regeneration is seen when a person repents, believes, and lives the life. If they have truly repented and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, they will have entered into a relationship of obedience to Him. He is Lord. As an act of obedience and of consecration to Him, the new-born believer will be baptized . Upon repentance and faith they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who provides the power to live the Christian life. (Acts 2:38).  But life must not be in isolation. There must be a vital relationship with other believers.

  1. Committed relationship

Life and committed relationship cannot really be seen in isolation in the Body of Christ, any more than they can in the human body. There is considerable overlap. For example, while immersion in water in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one manifestation of

new life, it is also a baptism into Christ, the public sign of entrance into the Church. Similarly, while baptism in the Holy Spirit, received at conversion, places a believer in the Body of Christ, it is also the Holy Spirit who enables them to become a fully participating member of the local Body (cf.. I Cor. 12:13).

  1. Joining the Church.

This being ‘joined’ or ‘added’ to the local Church is a vitally important matter. It has several parts to it which may be examined under the headings of parts of the body.  (See also the article on Procedures in receiving members).

  1. Joints

God’s people are related by joints (Eph. 4:16; Col. 2:19). Just as the limbs of a physical body are related by joints, so the Church, a many-membered Body, is related by joints. A visible body requires visible joints. But these joints must be functional, not merely theoretical or mystical. One dictionary defines ‘joint’ as “the place where, or mode in which, two or more things join, with power of movement”.

Generally, a joint is thought of as a relationship between individual members who are likewise related to others. The sum total of members and joints make up the whole Body and all the members (limbs) are joined to Christ, the Head.

Scripturally speaking, joints have three primary functions:

  1. Joints hold the members together and in place.
  1. Joints transmit life, or supply sustenance, etc., from one member to another, and in so doing perpetuate the growth of the Body.
  1. Joints enable the Body to function as a whole and the individual members to function within the Body in a way they could not in isolation.

If joints (relationships) between members of the Body are weak, then members can easily get ‘out of joint’ and out of place. Such a condition renders them undependable and useless to the purpose of God. It also causes pain and limitation to the entire Body. Weak, ill-defined and undernourished relationships have put many members out of joint.

Without joints, the Body would soon become a re-enactment of Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones, the scattered memory of a once great army. The first step in that prophetic restoration was that bone came to his bone (Ez. 37:7). In other words, the right people must get together in the right way to function in God’s purpose under Jesus’ Headship. It is not diversity within the Church that causes weakness, but rather lack of sufficiently strong joints to hold the members in place together as they provide their unique contribution to the Body. Strong commitment, member to member, is required before there is the freedom to function which will do God’s will. Strong edification and correction best come in an atmosphere pre-conditioned by covenant commitment. Members of Christ’s Body whose insecurity or fear keep them from strong relationships, doom themselves to shallow communication, irresponsibility, and an uncorrected life.

  1. Ligaments.

In Col. 2:19 there is a reference to ‘ligaments’. In the physical body ligaments are the bands of tissue which hold bones together at the point where they are joined. The joint depends on the ligament for its strength.  In the Body of Christ, if the joints are the inter-personal relationships between believers whom God joins together, then the ligaments are descriptive of the covenant commitment which keeps such joints strong and secure. In addition to the covenants made between God and man in the Bible, we read also of covenants made between men (e.g. Gen. 31:43-54; I Kings 5:8-12). In these covenants each of the parties had his clearly defined obligations.  When new churches are planted the participants in the venture usually “covenant” together to form the church, and this is usually referred to in the founding document. Among the Semitic peoples portrayed in the Bible, part of the procedure involved in two parties entering into a covenant was sharing a common meal together, in particular breaking bread from one loaf and drinking from one cup. This is why it was particularly appropriate for the Lord Jesus Christ to initiate the New Covenant at a solemn meal with the bread and the cup, (Matt. 26:20-28). By this one act all who participated in it were thereafter bound together in a sacred covenant. Ever since then, partaking of the Lord’s Supper has included the element of a renewal of the covenant by which all who partake are bound to the Lord and to each other.

So we have members, joints, and ligaments. No doubt many other parallels could be drawn. But the most important part of the Body is the Head. The Lord Jesus Christ is the sole Head of the Church. He is the final authority. All lesser authorities derive from Him, and it is to Him that we look for guidance and direction.

A person who is spiritually alive, who acknowledges Christ as Head, may thus join a local Church by entering into this lovely relationship of mutual trust, mutual love, and mutual respect. There will also be a sense of mutual responsibility and mutual respect for one another.

Clearly, a person who does not recognise Christ as Lord, cannot be a member of any true Church. But to be a member of a particular Church, it is clearly essential that the applicant should be in full agreement with the doctrine preached by the church, be willing to enter into this committed relationship, recognizing the God-given leaders and the other members of that Body. A person may be very sincere in what he believes, but if he will not accept the other members, will not recognize the men God has appointed, and does not accept the teaching given, he is in no position to become a member of that local Body of Christ. We can only receive a person up to the level that a person is prepared to commit themselves.

Church Discipline

January 23, 2012

Church discipline is often observed more by its absence than by its application.  Of course no one likes to have to apply church discipline.  It causes great grief and sorrow in the church, and those who are responsible for applying it are often very cast down about having to do so.

But it is a mark of a weak church when discipline is neglected, and of a strong church when it is lovingly but firmly applied.

If a church member or leader falls morally, especially if it becomes known publicly, it causes grief to the Lord, mars the church testimony, and sets a bad example.  If the matter is not dealt with others may think the matter is unimportant and may be tempted to sin in a similar manner.  Also the church is seen to be weak.

The causes of discipline are many and varied.  They range from lack of attendance at church to serious public moral misdemeanours or doctrinal errors.

It is wise to have the causes and procedures of church discipline spelled out in the church constitution.  At the very least relevant scripture passages should be cited.  If these details are not laid down in the constitution of the church the way is left open to very subjective judgments and wide variation in application.

Many years ago a minister sought to dismiss an adulteress privately, thinking to avoid scandal and great upset in the church.  The miscreant sued him successfully on the grounds that he had not followed church procedure.  So whatever procedure is laid down must be followed.

If statements are to be made in a church meeting they should be typed out and read so that an accurate copy is retained in case of further complications.

Always the ultimate goal is the restoration of the offender, but this is not always attainable, at least in the short term.  Sanctions may vary from private admonition, through public rebuke, suspension from the Lord’s table, or from church membership for a period, through to complete excommunication.  Whatever decision is made the church needs to be kept informed and warned against speaking of these things outside the church. (Matthew 18:15-20).

Hymns and Choruses

January 21, 2012

Most choruses, by their very nature, are brief and therefore have little, if any, serious content.  Some in fact are quite banal.  Repetition of banality does not improve it!  However, there are a few short verses or choruses that are beautiful, meaningful and devotional.  On one occasion when the late Dr. D. M. Lloyd-Jones was preaching for us I used two or three worship choruses.  After the service I asked him if he minded us using them.  “Not at all,” he replied, “they helped me.”

 

Hymns or songs of worship are not necessarily bad because they are short, nor are they good because they are long.  I was present at a meeting when a well-known evangelical uttered a tirade against what he called “four-liners”.  I was tempted to point him to Psalm 117, an inspired four-liner.  At the end of the meeting, the chairman, with a twinkle in his eye, said, “We haven’t time to sing now, not even a four-liner!”

A generalization is often expressed, that old hymns are good but new hymns are, on the whole, bad.  There is a measure of truth in that, but we need to understand why that appears to be the case.  The fact is that loads of rubbishy hymns were written in the past, especially in the Victorian era.  But in the process of time they have (thankfully) dropped out of use and are now forgotten except by hymnologists.  But that leads to another statement, namely that hymns are not necessarily good because they are old, neither are they necessarily bad because they are new.  The bad hymns and songs written today will also, hopefully, fall into disuse and so be forgotten, while the good hymns will endure.

What, then, are the criteria for choosing good hymns, songs, or even choruses?

First, a word about the music.  The tunes must be singable.  Some tunes are so complicated, that it takes ages for the congregation to learn them, and at the end they are more of a performance than an act of worship.  Incidentally, in some modern hymn books familiar tunes have been so ‘arranged’ that the four-part harmony has disappeared, and the tune now shows off the arranger’s skill and the organist’s versatility rather than the harmony, as at first written.  The loss of four-part harmony in congregational singing is to be deplored.  Human voices singing in harmony even without instruments, can be very beautiful.

In addition to being singable the tunes must be suitable for worship.  Some are so jazzy and others so mournful that they overwhelm the words. Some modern tunes are rather monotonous, based on just two or three chords. However, the tune is not the primary thing. Be very careful of people selecting a hymn because they like the tune!  If the music is too dominant and the words become secondary that is a disaster.  Tunes must also fit the mood of the words.  Turning from the sacred to the secular for a moment, you would not sing a love song to the tune Men of Harlech nor would soldiers sing a battle song to Brahms Lullaby!

But whether hymns, choruses or songs of worship are used, the words are the vital thing.  The words must be sound, scriptural, grammatical and good poetically in order to honour the Lord.  Many hymns have unsound doctrines or thoughts expressed in them.  Preachers should scrutinize their choice of hymns very carefully to ensure that the people are not singing error or even doubtful sentiments.  This is where a good hymn book can be an enormous advantage. Many Christians absorb their doctrine partly from hymns by a kind of osmosis.  So hymns, according to Colossians 3:16, should be also didactic.  Therefore they should cover a full range of doctrine, and not just focus on self-centred enjoyment.

Some excellent hymns have words or phrases in them which are not easily understood today.  Rather than re-write the hymn and introduce lower quality poetry (which usually happens when people tinker with a poet’s work) it is better to explain the difficult word or phrase before singing the hymn, even for the sake of children present.  The hymn then becomes a teaching opportunity.  For example, it only takes a moment or two to explain that ‘Ebenezer’ means ‘stone of help’ in Robert Robinson’s fine hymn, Come Thou Fount of every blessing, and to relate it to the story in First Samuel.

Personally I do not mind if some choruses or modern songs are accompanied by guitars.  But I have heard great hymns with stately tunes massacred by being forced into a sort of Rock rhythm.  Horrible!  Let the words be sound and elevating, let the music suit the words, and let the accompaniment (if there is any) be suitable to the words and music.

Children’s Talks in the Service

January 21, 2012

It is my conviction that children’s addresses in the main worship services of the church do more harm than good for several reasons.

First of all, they give the impression to the children that this is their bit and the sermon is not for them.  This is what they are to listen to and nothing else. They are thus gradually trained in the idea of not expecting God to speak to them through the preaching of the Word.  Secondly, children’s addresses are often badly done.  It is not easy to speak to a whole range of ages in an effective way.  In well-ordered Sunday Schools (and of course day schools) children are grouped according to their age, and teaching appropriate to that age is given.  But in churches up and down the country someone gets up with a supermarket bag and pulls out an object, chats about it supposedly to all the children of all ages, and then ties on a religious application, often quite loosely.  Time and time again in many churches I have observed the younger children taking no notice at all of the speaker, or the older children looking decidedly embarrassed, or both!  Often there is clear resentment seen on the faces of early teenagers at being forced to be there. When will adults realize that children above a certain age are acutely embarrassed when they are singled out for the attention of the speaker in front of adults?

One particularly useless practice that I have observed in two churches is when the children are called out to the front and the speaker addresses them at close quarters so that the rest of the congregation cannot hear what is going on, and have to sit in a kind of hiatus until this part of the service is over.  What is that supposed to be doing?  What ultimate benefit is that practice?  And when do the children stop coming forward and remain seated with their parents?

And when this is coupled with the fatal practice of taking the children out for the sermon it is no wonder that many children grow up to keep on going out and staying out.  In travelling around I have been alarmed to see young people as old as sixteen going out for the sermon!  And why not?  They have been trained to go out.  They have been brainwashed into thinking that the sermon has no relevance to them.  No wonder teenagers leave the church when they have been brainwashed into thinking the sermon is not for them.

Over forty years ago I heard the late Dr. Arthur Dakin, one time Principal of Bristol Baptist College, speak against this practice and I have never forgotten what he said.  If children go out of the service part way through that becomes, psychologically, the high point of the service for them.  If you must have them out for part of the service it would be better to bring them in half-way through!

Years ago, through taking Dr. Dakin’s words to heart, and after reading Edith Schaeffer’s book Hidden Art, we devised a much better method which worked supremely well for over 25 years.

First of all, no children under the age of six came into the main service.  Instead we held a children’s church for them where they had teaching appropriate for their age.  In my view, it is not good practice to bring infants into the main services.  The inevitable noise they make disturbs other worshippers, can put the preacher off, and often, unless the  parents are very hard-necked, embarrasses the parents.  It is not necessary.

Secondly, when they reached the age of six or seven, could read, and had learned to sit still, they were told they would be allowed to go into the ‘big’ service and sit with their parents.  It is great to see families sitting together in church. This was looked upon as a great privilege. They were presented with a notebook and pencil.  Their parents were encouraged to follow Edith Schaeffer’s advice on helping the children to take notes of the sermon.

 

The sermons were not at all ‘dumbed down’ but were normal expositions of the Scripture. Of course, in the early stages, the parents simply helped them to put down the preacher’s name and the text, perhaps a few main points, simplified.  And perhaps a drawing related to the church or the sermon. They also encouraged them to look up the hymns in the hymn book and the readings in the Bible and relate to all parts of the service.  This is very important.  Well-meaning parents sometimes mistakenly allow their children to bring books, comics, or even computer games to occupy them instead of encouraging them to participate in the service and listen to the sermon.  This only teaches them that the service and the sermon are not for them.  It is important to get this right.  The preacher serves up slices of the bread of life, and the parent breaks it up into smaller pieces.  Gradually the child gets the idea and begins to take sensible notes.  Some years ago my wife and I had to do a seminar on children in church at a major conference.  After a morning service prior to that seminar I asked the children in our church to let me borrow their notes so that I could use them as illustrations in the seminar.  Over thirty children brought me their notes, many of which I could have preached from.  Some brought me thick notebooks filled with notes of my sermons.  I was greatly encouraged and indeed moved by that proof of the effectiveness of this method.  If children’s addresses must be given, let them be given in another place and time, and not in the main service. Some years ago a university graduate emailed me to tell me that he had all the notes of my sermons he had taken down from the age of six upwards!

Just think seriously about this for a moment.  In some churches a children’s address is given.  Then the children sit through the sermon.  In addition they have a Sunday School lesson either before or after the service.  No wonder they grow up thinking the sermon is not for them.  They have three different addresses to listen to.

If you must give a children’s address because it is written in the church constitution or is according to the law of the Medes and Persians, then perhaps the practice of a certain pastor may help.  He simply told the story of the Bible, working through it gradually in his own words.  This, he told me, took about eight years, after which he could start all over again.

No doubt adults as well as children benefitted from that method.  Knowledge of the Bible among adult Christians is often abysmal today.  If that method is adopted then do not call it the children’s address.  Do not specify that it is for children.  Just do it.  In effect, what you are doing is presenting a paraphrased Scripture reading, not a children’s address.

Changes in the Church

January 21, 2012

All growth is change, but not all change is growth.  Every minister hopes for changes of the right kind.  The growth in grace of his church members and the conversion of unbelievers is the longing of every true minister of God.  There may be other changes that are desirable also.  When I entered the ministry my first church had been used to holding sales of work to raise money.  I believed it was right to stop that practice and introduce direct giving through Gift Days and tithes and offerings.  One deacon at that time remarked, quite amiably, “Ah, well, one minister comes and we put the sale of work tables away, another minister comes along and we get them out again!”  That was over forty years ago, and so far they have not been used again in that church!

What changes should be made?  First of all, serious matters must be put right such as wrong doctrines held or harmful practices that are in operation.  Ineffectual meetings, or institutions that have long since lost their usefulness should be discontinued.  In some cases it may take time to assess whether a meeting or a procedure should be dropped or altered.  It is perhaps not wise to change something that is working well unless there is something better available to replace it.  “Do not fix it if it is not broken”.  Do not make changes for changes sake.

When should things be changed?  This depends on a number of factors.  If something is clearly wrong, it should be changed as soon as possible, perhaps soon after arrival at the church.  “A new broom sweeps clean.”  On the other hand, it may take time to prepare the church for the change.  When I arrived at my last church there was no eldership.  But I did not introduce an eldership straight away.  First I wove into my teaching the concept of eldership, expounding the pastoral epistles in the mid-week Bible Study.  Secondly, there were no men ready for that office.  I had to see men grow to the stature necessary for that work.  When the time was ripe, after three or four years, there was a unanimous decision among the existing leaders as to who the first two elders should be.  Some young men with little experience try to change as many things as possible as soon as possible after arrival, even things that have been greatly used by God.  They do their best to blot out and remove everything that may remind people of their former pastor. This may be due to insecurity or even arrogance.  It is certainly unwise and can cause resentment, distress and confusion among the sheep.

How should things be changed?  Tactfully!  Prayerfully!  Lovingly! And with the co-operation of the existing leadership, and with the goodwill of as many of the members as possible.  When I was called to my second church I realized that it did not have a strong evangelical ethos and discussed it with several senior men.  The Rev. Geoffrey King said: “Don’t scrape the ice off the windows; raise the temperature of the room.”  Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said: “Remember that spiritually they are children.”  Always seek to work within the bounds of the existing constitution of the church.  In other words, if the constitution requires a church meeting for major changes, then do it through the church meeting.  But do not spring major changes on the members without preparing them.