"For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach."
What Matters Most
This is part two in a series on the office of elder. Find part one here.
In his book The Leadership Dynamic, Harry Reeder points out that a good, biblical leader will have three basic qualities: character, content, and competence.
What’s important to note is that the first is the most vital.
Most leadership books will focus on competence, as if that is the most essential quality. They devote page after page to practical tips, strategies, and goals for ministry success. This is unfortunate as competency is the easiest trait to gain and (more importantly) the least significant of all the attributes of a leader.
Congregations often place the greatest weight on competency too. They may seek to vote for someone who comes across as eloquent, persuasive, and “able to get things done.”
While we don’t want to downplay competency, we recognize that someone can grow into the position over time. They can develop the skills and gain a proficiency in the duties of shepherding through practice and expedience.
As a matter of fact, some of the best shepherds I’ve seen were blue collar men who simply took their responsibility before God seriously. Despite having a shaky start, they quickly learned to make calls, pay visits, give counsel, and offer prayers on behalf of the congregation.
We recognize that competence is needed, but we should keep in mind that it is not necessarily the principle asset a leader must possess out of the gates.
What is most fundamental to biblical leadership is character. Scripture underlines this expressly. As Paul lays out the qualifications of a leader, he doesn’t set out a resume of accomplishments. He points to issues of spiritual maturity:
“An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well.”
Character is key because character is what leadership is all about. An elder’s job is to lead the congregation into greater holiness.
We must recognize that the elder's primary job is not to make the church grow numerically or develop tactics to better reach the community. Those things may happen and may be very good. Nevertheless, they are not the main responsibilities of a church officer. His role is to nurture the people in their obedience to God. That is why he himself must excel in godliness.
Content is another central attribute of a biblical leader, and that will be taken up more fully in our next issue. However, it is safe to say though that there is a direct connection between character and content. This leader is spiritually mature because he is highly familiar with the content of the Bible. He has grown in faith and love because he has meditated upon the law of God and become saturated with it.
So character is key. We are not looking for someone who will “take Hopewell to the next level” of ministerial effectiveness. We are looking for a shepherd; a man who has an obvious concern for biblical fidelity, be it for himself, his family, and the rest of the congregation.
Change of Worship Venue
July 15-17th the Hopewell crew will be spending the weekend at Camp Conger, just north of Willard, Ohio. Please note that our regularly scheduled worship service will take place at the camp that Sunday. Please plan to join us at 10:30 am for worship and for lunch following.
Need Help? Counsel is Available
The Word of God is sufficient to deal with all of life's problems. Whether it is anger, addiction, relationships, depression, or conflict, any problem can find its solution in the Truth God has revealed. Ask to set up a free and confidencial appointment today.
The Spirituality of a Confessional Church
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering."
Hopewell is unique among churches in the Ashland area as we are a "confessional church." This is the fourth article in a series which is examining what this means and why it is important.
Be sure to check out parts 1, 2, and 3.
Confessional churches are, shall we say, different. Often there is a certain feel to them. That's because the confessions typically create a unique culture. As we come to this final article on the subject of a confessional church, it may be good to think about the vibe that is produced in the church as a result of subscribing to the confessions.
Here is a quick rundown of just a few of the characteristics that are common to confessional churches:
1. Vigorous, doctrinal preaching - The Confessions are, above anything else, a high commitment to the Scriptures. They summarize, what we "confess" to be true. That usually plays out in the pulpit.
The depth of faith contained in these doctrinal standards enriches the level of teaching that occurs from week to week. Congregation members often gain a great deal of edification through the preaching of the Word and find it to be quite substantial for their souls.
2. Solid Ministers of the Gospel / Leadership - One reason why the teaching ministry is such a blessing is because confessional churches expect a well trained minister. Congregations expect their ministers to not only be thoroughly trained in the confessions themselves, but they must also be adeptly acquainted with the Scriptures that undergird them, the history that surrounds them, and the practices that they set forward.
To put it another way, confessional churches have high standards. That transposes into a high standard for those who preach and serve as elders in the church. The laity, having bulked up on Biblical and confessional material, probably isn't going to settle for any ole schlub being in a position over them.
3. Reverence & Listening - In a Pentecostal church, you will likely see people bouncing away in the aisles. In a Fundamentalist church, you may see a loud, sweaty preacher. In a Confessional church you will likely see a degree of quiet stillness.
This is not the "frozen chosen" as many jokingly call it. To the contrary, it is active engagement coupled with reverence. The confessions set forward the greatness of God and focus upon his majestic being. The confessions teach us to listen to God speak in and through his Word. The natural product is that the congregation quiets themselves so that they may revere God and give adequate attention to the means of grace.
4. Means of Grace - I had never heard this term prior to being in a confessional church. But the confessions talk a great deal about how God brings his saving grace to bear on his people.
Christ accomplished our salvation and the Spirit applies it. But the Spirit works to grow us in this grace by means of the reading and preaching of God's Word, the sacraments, prayer, etc.
As these things are conveyed in the confessions, it naturally leads the congregation to give specific attention to these means of grace, both in the corporate context of worship, and in individual homes.
5. Sacramental piety - Confessional churches have a well developed theology of baptism and the Lord's Supper, and, as a result, put a significant emphasis on them in worship services.
The confessions themselves were written in response to a lot of the abuses of the sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church. Thus they spend a lot of time explaining the biblical teaching regarding them.
In sum, the confessions tell us that the sacraments are not merely pictures of the gospel or memorials for reflection. Rather they are lively declarations of the gospel. As such they are means of grace which press the validity of God's promises in a vivid manner and help us progress in our battle against sin.
6. A Covenantal Perspective - The idea of covenant is one of the most prominent themes of Scripture. The confessions have captured this fundamental teaching in their records and communicate it effectively throughout their pages.
Even though the Westminster and London Confessions have some slight nuances on the subject of covenant theology, they both concur when it comes to the basics: All humanity have become covenant breakers as a result of Adam's fall and deserve death. But the Lord redeems his people through the covenant of grace.
This covenantal perspective helps make the gospel all that much more central in the context of God's people. It also serves to give students of the confessions an enriched understanding of God's call to faithful obedience.
Admittedly, many non confessional churches may have some of the same distinctives. There's no doubt about that. But there is also no doubting the fact that the confessions foster a certain culture within the church. They set forward a unique spirituality and shape the practices and piety of those congregations which truly embrace them.
Join the Bee - Registration is Open!
The National Bible Bee engages young people in the memorization and study of God’s Word. Through this program our young people are united in bonds of fellowship, spiritually challenged, and strengthened in Christ. Register today to lock in your savings and your child's growth. Learn more about the Bee.
Register under hosts Rachel Johnson, Tara Beechy, or Michelle Naylor.
Overcome Anxiety for Good
For the last several weeks Hopewell has dug deeply into the issue of anxiety and shown how the Lord can deliver his people from it. If you or someone you know struggles with the issue of anxiety, be sure to check out the messages.
And join us this Lord's Day as we conclude this series as we contemplate "How Can We Keep from Becoming Anxious?"
Come join us in the land of social media!
I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Meeting with God
Why the Fuss about in Person Worship?
Hopewell returned to in person worship "many moons ago." Had we not had to scoot out of Hedstrom, we may have continued meeting. However, in person worship is still hotly contested in different circles.
But why does "pew sitting" matter? In the digital age, you can tune into some of the greatest speakers in the world just with a click or two. One can easily Zoom church too. Is that not soul food enough?
Even without COVID there are factors that may prevent one from going out on Sunday mornings: introvertism, scheduling conflicts, relational conflict, "they are a bunch of hypocrites," shame, and the age old "I can worship God just as well (if not better) simply by taking a walk in the woods."
In a day when gathered worship is not seen as vitally important, we need to rejuvenate our understanding of worship's true nature. In sum, what you get in worship is much different from what you may get through your screen or at home. Consider the following...
1) Public Worship Maximizes His Glory: While it is true that you can meet with God at home, God is most glorified in the context of corporate worship. It is truly different to sing in the confines of your house, where no one will hear or see. But when you acknowledge God publicly, in front of witnesses, the Lord receives greater honor. You "declare His glory among the nations" (Ps. 96) and enlarge the praise by virtue of an enlarged witness.
2) Public Worship Maximizes His Blessing: In Ex. 20:24 the Lord gave instructions about building an altar. Right after it he says, "Wherever I cause my name to be honored (i.e. in public sacrifices and worship), I will come to you and bless you."
What does this mean? It means that greater blessings are to be found where God is openly and corporately acknowledged. While there is always a risk of sickness, there is also the blessing of increased health, protection, joy, economic security, etc. A people (and possibly even a whole community) may enjoy His bountiful favor when a group of people gather together to exalt him.
3) Corporate Worship Maximizes His Interests: We Americans like our individualism and (as a result) tend to focus on what we want or what we get out of things. But have you thought about the Lord's interests?
God commanded His people to convene at the temple 3 times a year. He wanted them to drawn near to Him as a corporate body in week long increments. Psalm 87 states that the Lord loves the gates of Zion (where corporate worship takes place) more than the dwellings of Judah (where individual and family worship takes place).
In sum, God is absolutely fanatical about his people gather together in person to fellowship, worship, and learn.
4) Public Worship Maximizes His Presence: In the context of gathered worship, the Lord draws near to His people in a special way, particularly during the celebration of the Lord's Table.
Of the Communion service Paul says, "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?" (emphasis added) When we come together at the Lord's Table there is a real, spiritual meeting with Christ, where he draws near to affirm His promises and apply the benefits of his mediation.
5) Public Worship Maximizes His Loving Nurture: In the book of Revelation Jesus is depicted as standing amid the lampstands (i.e. the churches). He had drawn close to those bodies to minister his encouragements and discipline.
Hebrews 10 says that we should not neglect gathering that we may be stirred up by one another. Colossians 3 talks about how the Lord works through corporate singing to teach and admonish His people.
While there can be great gains through individual worship and study, the Lord puts a significant emphasis upon the spiritual socour that one gains in a gathered context.
To be sure, in person worship may not be possible for some (be it illness or some other providential hindering). These small exceptions more serve to prove the ordinary rule than mitigate against it though.
Yet these points are but a few reasons why there should be a earnest interest in gathering personally and corporately for worship. These examples also serve to show that Scripture puts a high emphasis on mimicking the gathered multitudes in heaven each Lord's Day.
Sunday Night Fellowship!
You're invited to join us at 6 pm this Sunday evening at Hedstrom. We'll be starting an informal time of worship and study. The time will consist of prayer, song, and study. We'll be focusing our attention on the OT Prophets. Children are welcome
Take the Next Step @ Hopewell
Have you been thinking about affiliating with Hopewell? Is your child ready to profess faith and/or be baptized? In September we will be receiving new members into our fellowship. So let us know if you would like to learn more or take the next step in your walk with Christ.
Want to Talk? Let's Connect!
Is there something weighing on your soul? Do you have some questions you'd like to ask? Or are you just interested in grabbing a coffee and enjoying a time of fellowship? Let us know; our leadership is always happy to meet up.
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
Psalm 119:105 (KJV)
I Don't Know