Category Archives: Shepherding

Beware the church of the tares

John MacArthur preached a powerful opening message on church growth at last week’s Shepherd’s Conference. Below is an excerpt:

The question for us is this: as the Lord builds his church, by what means does he do it? And secondly, has He revealed the means to us? If we undershepherds of Jesus Christ are to be the human instruments to build His church, we need to understand how He does it. We need to get in line with the divine pattern. There are many ways to build the “first church of the tares,” behind which Satan is the real power. It can be done very effectively; it can be big and enduring. The gnostics did it, and it’s still around. The Roman Catholics have done it, the liberals, the cults. They’re all still around.

The church of the tares is actually bigger than the church of the wheat. Even those who call themselves evangelicals today are busy doing it. There are a number of places called “churches,” where tares gather in increasing numbers. The successful assemblies of tares will eagerly market their skills as “tare development.” It can be very seductive to those motivated by pride, numbers, popularity.

If you want to compete with other “tare pastors,” there is ample information, seminars, data on the internet, to work on building your church of the tares with a smattering of wheat. However, if you serve Christ and recognize him as the head and builder of the church, then all you want to know is, “How can I be useful to him in the building of his church?”

May we stay faithful to God’s ordained means of growing His church – through prayer, perseverance, purity, and gospel proclamation.

Thanks to Evers Ding for providing the liveblog for last week’s conference. Seminar notes should be posted in the next few weeks, and all general sessions and seminars are available for purchase here.

Is church membership necessary?

Have you ever wondered why some churches emphasize membership? Here are nine reasons I believe church membership is important:

  • The early church kept track of its members (Ac. 2:41; 5:14)
  • Church leaders need to know who the members are (Acts 20:28, 31; John 10:14)
  • Members need to know who their fellow members are (Rom. 12:4-8; Heb. 10:24-25)
  • The community needs to know who the members are (Ac. 5:13)
  • It protects the concept of a regenerate church membership (2 Cor. 6:14)
  • It provides clear boundaries and consistent requirements for all members
  • It makes church discipline possible (Mt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:12-13)
  • It has historical precedent. By the beginning of the second century, churches required new believers to become “catechumens” before they could be baptized and become full members. During this time, they were taught doctrine and Christian living. This period lasted up to three years!
  • It just makes good sense (compare any business, hobby club, or any other organization which keeps track of its members).

As Mark Dever explains, “A recovered practice of careful church membership will have many benefits. It will make our witness to non-Christians more clear. It will make it more difficult for weaker sheep to go straying from the fold, while still considering themselves sheep. It will help to give shape and focus to the discipleship of more mature Christians. It will aid our church leaders in knowing exactly who they are responsible for. In all of this, God will be glorified” (Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, 38)

The purpose of this blog

Last week, Tim Challies offered some sage advice to all those newly-aspiring bloggers like myself in a post called “All about blogging.” In it, he said,

So before you begin your blog, ask why you should want to blog. Ask what you can contribute to the blogosphere. And once you begin the blog, ask why you want other people to read it. Question your motives and do not take for granted that other people will or should read your site.

Since I just recently started this blog, I really owe it to you to share what I’m trying to accomplish here. I think you’re entitled to know my answers to Tim’s questions. As the old saying goes, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Likewise, if this blog aims at nothing or no one, it will only succeed at failing.

I started this blog because the Lord has given me a burden for leadership development, and I believe blogging is a great tool to advance this in the 21st century. I think many young men and many church leaders out there are hungry for discipleship; they’re desperate for advice, for encouragement, and for accountability. They need help on both biblical and practical issues. But they don’t always know where to turn or how to get help. I know this partly from experience.

I was very blessed at The Master’s Seminary – through both my classes and my discipleship labs – to watch and ask and listen to my professors. But what if that dialogue could continue even after men leave the seminary fold? Or what if those who never had the privilege of attending seminary could listen in on a conversation, and grapple with issues that are affecting other churches as well? I hope this blog will be a “virtual discipleship lab,” if you will, where that kind of conversation takes place.

On a typical week, I hope to contribute three different posts:

  1. Monday: This is normally my day off from church ministry, so I have resolved not to take up matters of ministry on my blog either. On Mondays, I will usually feature a quote, a family update, a prayer request, a fun video, or a devotional thought.
  2. Wednesday: On Wednesday, I will usually deal with some biblical or theological topic. I may share some gleanings from a recent sermon I preached, an excursus from my studies, or musings on a topic I’m personally wrestling through. I realize that when everything is said and done, the best thing I can contribute to the blogosphere is not my own opinion, but a better understanding of Scripture.
  3. Friday: On Friday, I will provide cultural analysis or discuss some matter of practical theology. I will share different ministry ideas, suggestions, resources, interviews, and perhaps try answering a question posed by a reader. I hope to make it practical and provocative.

The ultimate goal of The Desert Chronicle (later renamed Life Under the Sun) is to glorify God by exploring matters of life, doctrine, culture, and leadership from a biblical perspective in a tone that is both personal and pastoral. In other words, I imagine coming alongside each of you in this blog and saying, “Hey, let’s see what God has to say about life and leadership.”