Lash Yourself to the Local Church

Ben Cole's latest post involves Dr. Joel Gregory of Truett Seminary. Ben said that Dr. Gregory met with a group of Southwestern students and himself last fall at Pappadeaux' Seafood in Arlington, TX. Dr. Gregory gave them the same advice he gave a group I was in at Truett earlier this year.

Gregory told us - "Lash yourself to the local church. The Kingdom of God is not built on the backs of anything other than the small-membership church."

I would like to know what you think about that statement (setting aside all Baptist politics).

21 comments:

Matt Snowden said...

Perry,

I just read Ray Van Neste's BP piece. I know you guys really like him. I think it may relate to this issue in a round about way.

Matt Snowden said...

Perry,

I just read Ray Van Neste's BP piece. I know you guys really like him. I think it may relate to this issue in a round about way.

Matt Snowden said...

oops

anabaptistblogger said...

Matt,

I know that this is not the response you desire, but Ben has done some serious hatchet work in his blog and I feel that I must make a comment about what he had to say about Patterson.

I had the same class that Ben did with Patterson and yet some how I came away with a much different impression of what Patterson stood for and was about.

What is ironic is that he may hale Joel as a hero and Patterson as a villain. If you base the criteria for sainthood status on the evidence behavior, in fact I think you will find that Patterson is not so bad a fellow.

Patterson, took Ben in at SEBTS after he was run off from a sister seminary. I never could understand why Patterson showed him any favor, but he did. My only question is not when he turned on Patterson but when did he take it upon himself to become such a royal pain in the rear to man who has done nothing but mostly good things for the kingdom of God? He treats Patterson as if he were of the Devil…

The fruits of the Spirit are apparent... love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control...

The works of the flesh are also apparent... sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like...

Patterson exceeds his and Joel's evidence of the fruit of the Spirit and they both trump Patterson entirely when it comes to works of the flesh. You can say what you want to about Patterson, but his life is not riddled with sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (read Joel Gregory) or in fact enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy (read Ben Cole).

I know Ben and I remember his days at SEBTS. He was rude and irate in the business office, my wife work in there and told me of his manner of dealing with the underlings. He was at times belligerent in class, as if he were there to teach the professor something. For the life of me I could never figure out why the Profs let him get away with his behavior.

Vitriolic diatribe is not the way of the cross. My advice to Ben is to return to his first love and let go of the bitterness that obviously consumes him.

Matt Snowden said...

Did you see the (Baptist politics aside) note?

anabaptistblogger said...

I did begin my comment with an apology... and I am sorry if the nature of my comments do not meet with your approval.

I just thought you might want to know there is another side to Ben Cole that is rather nasty.

There are two fools that show up when someone brings Ben Cole into a discussion... Ben Cole and the fool that brought him...

Now Matt you are not a fool, but I do not think you would want to associate yourself with Ben if you really knew him.

The fact that Ben has the ability to get important people to listen to him is nothing new. What is amazing is that important people do not see through Ben.

Now as to your comment about lashing yourself to the local church, the irony is that Ben is doing nothing of the sort. On his blog he brags about riding around with Wade and Joel for a tour of Texas, et al. How is that lashing yourself to the local church?

Matt Snowden said...

1. "There are two fools that show up when someone brings Ben Cole into a discussion...Ben Cole and the fool that brought him..."

2."Matt you are no fool..."

How does 2 follow 1?

I think you are standing so close to the painting all you see is paint.

Let's say that Perry McCall made the statement about lashing yourself to the local church. What would your opinion be then? I thought the idea followed earlier comments you made on this blog. I may have missed your point. I really would like the imput from some other pastors. I think the local church should be the center of our concern.

anabaptistblogger said...

Matt,

1. was an attempt at humor but with a touch of truth...

2. was my way of saying that I am not calling you a fool in any way but wanted you to know that Ben Cole is toxic.

This is your blog and if you want others than myself to comment on the local church, then you are certainly within your rights.

Matt Snowden said...

Bill,

Comment all you like. I just ask that you engage the issue. Let's say I heard "a retired pastor from Yazoo City" say, "Lash yourself to the local church. The Kingdom of God is built on nothing other than the small membership church." How would you respond to that? I really would appreciate you ideas on this issue.

anabaptistblogger said...

Matt,

I think that the way that Ben Cole et al are handling the resurgence of mainstream baptist identity gets away from the very advice that Joel Gregory gave the group of pastors he addressed in the comment you quoted.

For me the notion of truly lashing yourself to the local church means several things. For one, it means that my worth is not based on the size of my church per se. Inasmuch, many and most pastors that are interested in getting large churches must work behind the scenes in order to network and make the right connections in order to get the recommendation to the larger church. Sadly, the people in the pews are in cahoots with the process. If pastor search committees would not take as from on high the suggestions of the denominationalist and if they would do the spiritual work necessary to find the right man they may, as some churches often do, find him in some surprising places, like David a shepherd boy as a candidate for king.

Two it means busying myself primarily with the work and task of ministry and not pursuing political ambitions. It is like putting blinders on a horse to keep him focuses on the road ahead. Our main focus should be the local church.

Lastly it does mean that the true power of the convention is lashed to the autonomy of the local church.

To me Joel was telling Ben Cole to make sure that he is first a successful pastor, and secondly that the local church is the grass roots of the convention. We saw that in the first political shift. Now in order to have a new direction in the convention it must come from the local church level and not the denominational level. I do not know what you think he meant by what he said but I have my own ideas as you can see.

You are now wishing that Perry never told you about me aren't you? Just think I was a distant memory but hey I can only speak for myself, I am glad to get back in touch with you and I am perfectly willing to let you make up your own mind. But the statement has political overtones for sure.

Matt Snowden said...

Bill,

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I really am glad that Perry told me who the anabaptistblogger was. I pictured a bearded pacifist not the Ole Miss boy I knew from Carey.

I appreciate your thoughts. Your relationship with Ben Cole clearly colors the way you see the statement. We really can't get away from that sort I thing. My perspective is colored as well. When I heard Dr. Gregory make a similar statement at Truett it was a totally apolitical statement. He was talking about preaching and ministry in today's church. I think your reflections on the issue are important and I am glad you shared them with me.

I saw Perry today, we had a good visit. You will be in my prayers.

anabaptistblogger said...

Matt,

I need as many prayers and as many Prayers as I can get... Speaking of prayer, it is always nice to know that someone is praying for you.

I would certainly like to hear what your thoughts are on what Joel meant by the statement since you have had access to his statement in isolation from the aforementioned blogger from whom you originally quoted the statement.

Matt Snowden said...

Bill,

He was trying to encourge us as small to medium sized church pastors. I think there is a lot of wisdom in trying to celebrate small to medium sized churches. Thom Rainer noted that medium sized churches are the most evangelistically successful in his study on effective evangelistic churches. Megachurches have an important role to play in kingdom work but the little guys still do most of the heavy lifting. At least I think we do.

Perry McCall said...

Matt,
First, I want to say that anytime some one appeals to my name for the purpose of bringing sanity to a discussion we know that we are in trouble!!

I think that the local Church must be our first and foremost priority. We are all called to a life of ministry when we are called by God to the joy of salvation in Christ Jesus. However, we must come to accept that if we have a “calling” to vocational ministry, then we are limited in how that calling can be fulfilled. Denominational leadership is not a “biblical” calling. Is it a worthy way of serving Christ? Absolutely. Should somebody be doing it? Yes. But we must be honest about what we are doing. We are leaving the biblical ministry that we at one time publicly stated before the Church and were set aside by her for the explicit purpose of serving the Church in the capacity of a Pastor. So, when we leave the pastorate we must be able to say with conviction that God has released us from our callings and turn in our credentials. Ok, I through in the credential thing just for fun. My point really isn’t as radical as all that. I am simply saying that unless we are going to allow for the concept of new and direct revelation from God then we have to admit that when we leave the pastorate we are leaving our calling. It doesn’t mean it is wrong. But it does mean that we are no longer pastors. I haven’t commented in a while so forgive me for JUMPING ON MY SOAP BOX! Hospitals can not give pastoral care because they are not Churches. Pastoral counseling can not be given except from an actual pastor within the authority of an actual Church!!! Chaplains are fine and important but they are not pastors and they are not a fulfillment of a pastoral calling. My point is not that these ministries are wrong. They are wonderful and needed. The point is that God gave pastors to his Church. He calls out men to surrender their lives to the calling of pastoral ministry. Pastoral ministry is important for many reasons but it is especially important because it is the Church for which Christ died. It is for the Church that Christ will return for. It is the Church that is the people God. Jesus did not die for Conventions. He did not die for missions agencies. He did not die for hospitals. He did not die for America. Christ died for our sins. He died for His Church. God is building a Church. We must stand up in our generation and say no! to the setting aside of our calling. Yes, we can make more money by “doing pastoral ministry in a non-traditional way” or have more prestige and freedom by serving in a ministry that is “bigger” than any one Church. But we can not be faithful to our biblical calling by doing any of those things. If God rescinds your calling to pastoral ministry, then by all means quit. Be a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, or a denominational leader. All of these things are worthy endeavors. But may we be a generation that stops quitting.

So, yes is my answer. We must lash ourselves to the local Church!
Ahhh! I feel better now.

Perry McCall said...

I would like to know what he means by a small congregation. I am from Bartlett, TN and growing up in that area I considered a two in attendance Church to be small. 4-600 in worship was normal. Although I am not a fan of mega-churches, I definitely would not say they are neccessarily wrong. (the problem I have is with size not with particular methods.)
I would be much more comfortable saying the "local" Church rtather than the "small" Church. However, the fact remains that the vast majority of Churches are small or "medium" sized so at a practical level he is most definitely right the KofG is built on the backs of "small" membership congregations.

Matt Snowden said...

Perry,

I don't know how he would define small, medium, and large. Remember we were in Texas when the comment was made. The Lone Star State is home to Lakewood Church, Prestonwood Baptist, 1st Dallas, etc. Knowing his history with one of those big boys leads me to believe that he would say about 98% of the churches in Mississippi are small and medium sized. I am only suggesting; I don't know for sure.

A note on megachurches: I do think they have a place in Kingdom work. I just don't think they are the answer to all our problems. I just received another request from a couple wanting me to marry them because the megachurch they are members of is "just so big." They don't know the pastor of the church and when they called and asked his ministry assistant if he could do the wedding he said no. This couple attends on a regular basis but they still don't have access to pastoral care. If we are going to address the pastoral care needs of the church we must recognize the importance of small and medium sized churches. I think we need to plant more churches instead of one pastor sitting on the top of a religious empire. We have a congregation in our area that beams a message across town to "the other campus" and hundreds of people watch their pastor preach on a big screen. I think they could have stayed at home and watched Benny Hinn.

anabaptistblogger said...

FWIW, in most cases growth consultants consider churches 125-150 and under in attendance small congregations. Churches over 150 are medium sized and churches over 500-600 are typically considered large. Megachurches are churches with 2000 or more in attendance.

One thing I have recently come to understand is that there is a sociology to the size of church. There are plateaus and barriers that exist sociological in order to grow a church above a certain size. The irony is that I have helped plant two churches. In those experiences I was able to get a great deal of experience in understand what is needed to be successful in launching a church. One of the key elements to a successful church start is the size of the initial group. Typically seventy people in regular attendance is needed in order to have sufficient resources for ministry and in order to communicate the proper support to those in attendance. Churches that have under 70 typically appear unhealthy to guests. Therefore the magic number of 70 is often referred to as critical mass. Well the irony is that in small churches there also exists a sociological barrier that must be crossed at 70. Often churches do not have the necessarily social skills to associate with more than 70 on average in regular attendance. The next barrier has recently been moved from 150 to 125. The next is 200 and then 500-600. The next is 1000 and then 2000. At each of this stages a church must make major adjustments in order to continue to be responsive to the needs and demands of the congregation. Often the core membership of the church cannot or will not make the necessary adjustments in order to reach the next level.

I say all this in order to make a point. I do not think that our aim as pastors, churches or individual believers should ever be to stay where we are. God wants each of us to grow. We are constantly in a state of change and there are always going to be new challenges that require us to place our faith and trust in God. What would be awesome to see would be churches who place a priority on reaching people for Christ. If they truly did this and were obedient to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, I simply do not see how they would not grow both spiritually and numerically. I would like to see churches of 50 in attendance reach 200. I would love to see churches of 150 reach 600. I would also love to see churches make it a point along the way to start new works. If we as churches in the SBC would each plant a new church in the next 5 years our convention would double in size.

I am not one to say that numbers do not matter. They do matter because numbers represent people and God cares for people. As a pastor I can only tell you that I have made it my point, at each church that I have the privilege of pastors, to say that I did everything within my power to reach as many people for Christ as I possibly can. At the church I now pastor we have baptized over 15 people in the last 9 months. I hope I can double that in the next 9 months! It probably will not happen but if I only baptize one more it will not be for a lack of trying...

Matt Snowden said...

Bill,

I don't dispute anything you are saying and I've read all the same literature. My point is that at a certain point we need to start thinking about planting a church.

anabaptistblogger said...

Matt,

I hear you and think it is a matter of both / and. We can grow our churches from 50 to 200 and from 125 to 600 and all the while plant a church every 5 years. I think we must make our vision bigger than our own personal little kingdom. It is about having a kingdom mentality. Which I sense you are clearly pushing for and for that I commend you.

Matt Snowden said...

Bill

Yep and thanks!

David said...

Is the "local church" really what Jesus meant when the church was established or is the current definition of the local institutional church our definition.
Could church refer to the whole body of born again believers worldwide that just choose to congregate locally out of convenience.
Is it possible for the missional disciple (excuse the overkill in adjectives for any real disciple is missional) to be part of the church without a fulfilling the traditional membership role in one local church?
I am referring to someone whose membership may be in one church, but on any given sunday he is assisting a church start as part of the planting team, filling in for churches without pastors, during the week he is starting a new church, involved in a house small group, ministering to his neighbors, and assisting his wife in her calling. Therefore, he is never in the church that "holds his membership."
Would you say he is neglecting his calling as "pastor"? Is he defying some Biblical demand to be the faithful constant attender of one congregation?
On another point . . .
Yes, the denomination needs to be redefined. Maybe it needs to be more of a missional network that we are engaged with that facilitates and enhances our Kingdom activity in our congregations rather than an institution that requires sole proprietorship of its members. As such, it would definitely be relevant and continue to serve the purpose for which churches (especially Baptist ones) voluntarily joined together in the first place many years ago. But don't be so hasty as to declare that those that serve in "denominational" have neglected their calling as pastors. I have met several pastors that even though their congregations may give them that title, one could hardly guess it by their activity.
Matt - I have read most of your postings and enjoy your views. Keep publishing. My prayer is that the local gathering of Christians that God has given you the privilege of pastoring is as missional as your thoughts.

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