THE NATURE & STRUCTURE OF THE CHURCH

“For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace…Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way”  (I Cor. 14:33, 40). The structure of the church not be determined by culture, business practices, or even traditions. The structure of the church should be based on the nature of the church. Here is how the Bible describes the nature of the Church, and here at Ham Lane Church, we strive for a biblical structure based on these biblical descriptions of the church.

 

The Church is a fellowship

Acts 2:42

“They continued steadily learning the teaching of the apostles, and joined in the fellowship…”

Top priorities in a fellowship are harmony and unity. 

Ephesians 4:3

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit thorough the bond of peace.”

Romans 14:19

“So let us concentrate on the things that make for harmony and the growth of our fellowship together.”

Any attitude that causes disunity is sin. 

Col. 3:15, I Cor. 1:10, 2 Tim. 2:14, Pr. 17:14, 2 Cor. 13:11, Phil. 1:27, 2:1-3; Col. 2:2, Phil. 4:2, I Pet. 3:8, I Cor. 14:33, John 13:34-35, 2 Tim. 2:23, Rom. 15:5-6, Rom. 12:16-18, Col. 3:13-14, Ps. 133:1

1 Corinthians 11:17-18

“(Often)…your meetings do more harm than good because I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you…”

IMPLICATION: A good structure promotes unity and downplays differences.

The Church is a family

1 Peter 3:8

“You should be like one big happy family, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds.”  (See also Gal. 6:10, Heb. 2:10-12, I Pet. 4:17)

1 Timothy 5:1-2

“Don’t reprimand a senior member of the church, appeal to him as a father. Treat the young men as brothers, and the older women as mothers. Treat the younger women as sisters…”

 

1 Timothy 3:4-5

“(A Pastor) must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his family, how can he take care of God’s church?

IMPLICATION: A good structure operates on the basis of relationships not rules.

 

The Church is a body
1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 5:23, Ephesians 1:22-23, Colossians 1:18 and 2:19

We are a body! We are a living organism – not an organization!  


Romans 12:4-6

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many from one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We each have different gifts according to the grace given us.”

In an organization, “maintenance” becomes the focus, but in a living organism, “ministry” is the focus.  

Ephesians 4:11-12
“God gave…some to be pastors and teachers to prepare God’s people for works of ministry, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”


IMPLICATION: A GOOD STRUCTURE EMPOWERS PEOPLE TO USE THEIR GOD-GIVEN GIFTS TO FULFILL HIS PURPOSES.

 

The Church is a flock
Jesus’ favorite description of the Church: John 10:1-30, Matthew 26:31, Matthew 25:33 

Those who care for the Church are like shepherds.

John 21:16-17
“Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Do you really love me?'” “Yes Lord’, said Peter. Then take care of my sheep.”

I Peter 5:1-2
“To the elders I say…Be shepherds of God’s flock, serving as overseers…”

Three different terms are used in the New Testament to refer to the same church leaders:

  • “Poimen”:  Pastor or Shepherd
  • “Presbyters”:  Elder
  • “Episcopos”:  Overseer or Bishop

Acts 20:17-18, 28
“Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.  When they arrived he said to them…Guard yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be pastors of the church of God…”

IMPLICATION: A GOOD STRUCTURE RECOGNIZES SOME INDIVIDUALS HAVE A GOD-GIVEN CHARGE TO OVERSEE THE CHURCH AS SHEPHERDS.

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Life And Liberty for All

liberty_bellJuly 4, 1776 is a day all patriotic Americans re­member as the birth of our nation. It was on that historic date that British colonies declared their in­dependence from England. On July 8, 1776, along with church bells throughout the colonies, the Lib­erty Bell peeled out the symbolic message of free­dom and independence. On the bell is found the inscription, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” The inscrip­tion is taken from the Bible, Leviticus 25:10.

Until 1835 the bell rang every year during the celebration of the declaration of independence. Now it is just a relic. The Liberty Bell is one of the few remaining national symbols on which a passage from the Holy Book of God remains. That indicates the respect the founding fathers of this nation held toward God and His word. The current legislators reflect just how far away from that respect this na­tion has come. The Bible has been made an illegal book in federally funded programs and in public schools.

The declaration of independence cost many re­bellious colonists their lives. They fought for free­dom, the right to pursue their own happiness. They inscribed on our currency, “In God We Trust.” But like the Liberty Bell, that inscription means very little to Americans. Some have tried to get it re­moved from our currency. Quite candidly, I believe it may as well be removed — not to satisfy the fool­ish purposes of some radical group of godless people, but to come even with the way most Ameri­cans really think. How much trust do you think the majority of Americans really put in God Almighty? Americans show very little trust in anyone or any­thing. This nation’s problems could easily be fixed by a return to the foundational disposition ex­pressed in “In God We Trust.” “Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him” (Proverbs 30:5).

Men will shed blood for political freedom. It is not so with spiritual freedom. More seek to avoid spiritual freedom than to achieve it. Bruce Barton once said, “What a curious phenomenon it is that you can get men to die for the liberty of the world who will not make the little sacrifice that is needed to free themselves from their own individual bondage.” The way to spiritual liberty is through Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. He said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

Truth is the only thing that frees man from spiri­tual slavery. But liberty requires that the slaves to sin rise up in a spiritual revolution and rebellion. A declaration of freedom against the bondage of sin is made the very moment one comes out of sin into freedom. By inspiration, Paul wrote, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). The turning point from slavery in sin to freedom in Christ is wholehearted obedience.

Obedience must be grounded in faith. Faith is produced by divine revelation (Romans 10:17). Saving faith obeys the word of God without reser­vation. Obedience is compliance with law. Cicero said, “Liberty consists in the power of doing that which is permitted by the law.” Living under God’s law is the only way to be free from the blight of sin.

This year, when you celebrate the 4th of July, remember the wide discrepancy between the moral and spiritual values of America today and those of the men and women who died to make this one free nation under God. We need to return to the former disposition toward God and to a time when men felt free to inscribe passages from the Holy Word of God on our most valued national symbols.

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Why A Memorial Day?

memorialday1Do you know how “Memorial Day” was established?  Do you know its original purpose?  Unfortunately, many view Memorial Day as simply an opportunity to have a three day weekend and go to the lake.  The very purpose has either been forgotten by some or never known by others.  After the Civil War, people in the South created special memorials to remember the southern soldiers who died.  These were referred to as “Confederate Memorial Days.”  In the North it was called “Decoration Day” and most southerners did not recognize this day as it honored northern soldiers who died in the Civil War or as some called it “The War of Northern Aggression.”   It was only after World War II that it became known as Memorial Day and was intended to honor all fallen soldiers who gave their lives for their country.  But this is lost on many today.

Why do we have a memorial day? Why have days to remember? The answer is simple, because we forget. In the Bible there are a number of memorials.  God gave Noah the rainbow as a sign of the covenant that He would never again destroy the world by flood (Genesis 9).  To the children of Israel, God gave the Passover as a reminder of the Tenth Plague upon the land of Egypt, the death of the 1st born (Exodus 12.14). There are other memorials in the Bible, but this Sunday at Ham Lane Church we are going to focus on the most important.  Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night before His death.  The unleavened bread is His body and the fruit of the vine is the blood of the New Covenant (Matthew 26.26-28).  We often refer to this as the Lord’s Supper.  This Supper is something we do so that we do not forget the amazing sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and more importantly to celebrate His resurrection. Paul stated that as often as we drink this cup and eat this bread we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11.26).  This morning we celebrate a living memorial in that it looks back at Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins but recognizes the fact that Jesus lives today.  He is in heaven and will return to take the faithful to heaven.  It is important for us not to forget Jesus’ sacrifice, His authority today, and His return in the future.

This memorial is observed by all Christians on the first day of every week (Acts 20.7).  Unlike the Passover which was observed only by the Jews or “Decoration Day” observed only by those in the North; this Supper is recognized by all Christians.  We are unified in proclaiming Jesus’ death and His return.  While there is only one Lord’s Supper, it is commemorated all over the world.

Chad

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Christmas: Myth vs. Fact #3 Jesus’ Birth Date

For many who align themselves as a Christ-follower, Christmas Day, December 25th, is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  But is December 25th the actual day that the virgin Mary give birth to the Christ Child?  Some say “yes” and other declare “no.”  The fact is that the Bible does not tell us exactly what date Jesus was born.  And just like bellybuttons, throughout the years everyone has had an opinion as to the date of the birth of Christ.

Speculation as to the time of Jesus’ birth dates back to the 3rd century, when Hyppolytus (ca. 170-236) claimed that Jesus was born on December 25. The earliest mention of some sort of observance on that date is in the Philoclian Calendar, representing Roman practice, of the year 336. Later, John Chrysostom favored the same date of birth. Cyril of Jerusalem (348-386) had access to the original Roman birth census, which also documented that Jesus was born on the 25th of December. The date eventually became the officially recognized date for Christmas in part because it coincided with the pagan festivals celebrating Saturnalia and the winter solstice. The church thereby offered people a Christian alternative to the pagan festivities and eventually reinterpreted many of their symbols and actions in ways acceptable to Christian faith and practice.

December 25 has become more and more acceptable as the birth date of Jesus. However, some argue that the birth occurred in some other season, such as in the fall. Followers of this theory claim that the Judean winters were too cold for shepherds to be watching their flocks by night. History proves otherwise, however, and we have historical evidence that unblemished lambs for the Temple sacrifice were in fact kept in the fields near Bethlehem during the winter months.

Throughout these articles we’ve been talking about fact vs. myth and the fact is that He was born, that He came into the world to atone for our sins, that He was resurrected to eternal life, and that He’s alive today. This is what we should celebrate, as we are told in the Old Testament in such passages as Zechariah 2:10: “’Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,’ declares the LORD.” Further, the angel that announced the birth to the shepherds brought “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Surely here is the cause for celebration every day, not just once a year on December 25.

 

Chad

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Christmas: Myth vs. Fact #2 The Christmas Story

nativity_setThis morning I am continuing my mini-series separating Christmas fact from Christmas myth.  Today, I want us to look at the Scriptures retelling of the Christmas story to get a few facts straight that some traditional telling of the Christmas story misrepresented.  Please understand, I mean for this to be entertaining, educational, and fun.  By no means am I trying to attack our dearly loved traditions behind this wonderful season of Christmas.  However, with that said, there are some aspects in the retelling of the Christmas story that are merely tradition but have been mistaken as Biblical depiction.

Pictures of the nativity show Mary riding a donkey while Joseph leads them. This is speculation as there is no mention of how they traveled in the Biblical accounts.  It is more likely that she traveled in a wagon that was possibly led by a donkey.  Think about it–a woman whose nine months preggers bouncing up and down on a mule for sixty miles. She probably would have rode Joseph to Bethlehem before trying that.  Luke 2:6 indicates that she gave birth “while they were there”. The idea that they rode into town and she gave birth that night was a fictional addition, no doubt for dramatic effect.  In most explanations of the birth night Joseph went from hotel to motel asking the innkeepers for a room. However, in the Bible there is no innkeeper character or recorded dialogue.

It is not likely that the “wise men” or “magi” were “three kings;” this idea came from the carol.  In fact, the only book of the Bible that mentions them, Matthew, simply tells us that there was more than one because Matthew calls them “wise men.”  Although the account does not mention the number of people “they” or “the Magi” refers to, the three gifts they presented have led to the widespread assumption that there were three men.  Speaking of the wise men, the nativity scenes you see this time of year typically shows three wise men visiting the baby Jesus at the manger.  However, Matthew 2:11 gives us a clue that the wise men arrived at a house to see the “young child” Jesus. Matthew 2:16 hints that up to two years could have passed.

Although, the story tellers may have added a few “fictional facts” (is that an oxymoron?) to the story; Matthew and Luke paint the most beautiful Christmas story of all.  They were inspired through the Holy Spirit to share with us today, the amazing story of the birth of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ and how God became Emmanuel (“God with us”).  I want to encourage you during this holiday season, to read again for the first time the Christmas story spoken by the very breath of God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16).  You will find it in Matthew 1:18-2:23 and in Luke chapter 2.

Merry Xmas

Chad

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Christmas Fact vs. Myth #1: Merry Xmas

merry-xmas-graffiti-letter-design

Most everyone enjoys facts and trivia and this is especially true when it comes to beloved traditions such as Christmas.  For example, did you know that on Christmas Day, 1868 President Andrew Johnson granted an unconditional pardon to everyone involved in the Southern rebellion against the United States?  Or that the first Nativity scene was assembled by Saint Francis of Assisi on Christmas Day 1223, in Greccio, Italy.  These are fun facts and neat trivia about our beloved Holiday of Christmas (or at least I think so).  However, Christmas, for the Christ follower, carries a greater significance because it is a celebration of the birth of Christ our Lord and Savior.  Therefore, it can be important to distinguish the facts from the myths about Christmas.  There are many things about Christmas that are believed to be facts when in fact they are myths.  Now, although it carries some importance and can be entertaining to debunk some of the myths about Christmas, it misses the point.  Figuring out what isn’t true about the birth of Christ isn’t nearly as important as figuring out what is.  Nevertheless, over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about some Christmas balderdash that many have mistaken for fact.  So, I hope you have thick skin and a good sense of humor as it may make you feel like a sucker for believing superfluous elements of the Christmas story.

 

The first one I want to tackle is the notion that writing “Merry Xmas” is an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas.  Now, on the surface, it’s easy to understand why someone would think removing the letters “CHRIST” and replacing them with an “X” could be an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas.  But this is simply not the case.  Unfortunately, there are some Secularist Grinches who have long sought to obscure “the reason for the season.”  However, “Merry Xmas” is not an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas but it is rather a way of abbreviating the Christ in Christmas.  The Greek word (the language in which our New Testament books were originally written) for Christ is “Χριστός.” Notice anything familiar? The first letter is “X,” or chi. Chi is also written as an X in the Roman alphabet. Rather than being an offensive abbreviation for Christmas, or an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas, “Xmas” is actually a quite logical nickname for Christmas.  Since the ‘X’ is not Chi in English, it is easy to understand why we read the word as X-mas and see no connection with Christ.  However, let me assure you that if you sign your Christmas cards this year with a warm and sincere “Merry Xmas,”  you will in no way be leaving out the reason for this great season – Χριστός (Christ) Jesus who came as Emanuel, God with us.

 

A very Merry Xmas to you and yours.

 

Chad

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Transmogrified Through Worship

TransmogrifierOne of my favorite comic strips is Calvin & Hobbes. Calvin is an imaginative, spunky, rambunctious ten-year-old boy whose accomplice in crime is Hobbes, his stuffed tiger. One of my favorite recurring themes in C&H is when Calvin disappears underneath a cardboard box labeled in black magic marker, “The Transmogrifier.” In Calvin’s imagination, the Transmogrifier is a machine that can change him into a dinosaur, or a Calvinosaur, or it can change him into a space man or anything his mind can think up. He disappears underneath the box and Blam! He is instantly changed into his fantasy.

Have you ever wished you could be transformed into someone or something else?  Just step in and step out transformed?  If you have ever wanted to be transformed then I have good news for you.  The worship of the True and Living God is our highest privilege, our greatest duty, and our deepest joy.  God has created us for just this purpose: to worship Him, and to be transformed by Him as we worship.  The Scriptures say, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1&2, NIV).  As we come before the Lord with our sincere heartfelt worship, we will experience transformation through His power.

When we worship in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24) God is pleased and we will be encouraged and transformed.  The worship of the True and Living God is the ultimate Transmogrifier!  So, let us worship the Father and be transmogrified!

Chad

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