We did not get an early start this morning so we didn’t make it to the Pastor’s conference as early as I would have liked. The theme of the Pastor’s conference was Building Healthy Churches. Mark Dever, Matt Schmucker, and Jonathan Leeman are all part of 9Marks ministies. At 9:00 a.m. Matt Schmucker’s message was “Display God’s Gospel by Listening to His Word”. At 9:40 a.m. Mark Dever spoke on “Preaching and Biblical Theology”. When 11:00 a.m. rolled around Jonathan Leeman spoke on “Conversion & Evangelism”. Those are the three messages I was most interested and also the three I missed.
I arrived for Matt Schmucker’s message on “Membership/Discipline” and for Mark Dever’s message on “Leadership”. I also stuck around for some of the Q&A which was quite interesting as well.
Schmucker’s message was focused on discipline that is only effective within a church with a proper and meaningful membership. He said churches need to guard the front door. We need to stop allowing just anybody to be members and start requiring that only Christians become actual members of our churches. We can allow anyone to come to our church, but we should only allow actual Christians to become members and to be Baptized and to partake in the Lord’s Supper and business meetings. We should offer church membership classes to show people what they are getting into if they join our church and we should have a church covenant that should be signed by those wishing to be members. We should stop being churches that have 900 members on roll and only 400 showing up. Only when we have such high standards for church membership can we discipline our members.
Schmucker also mentioned that we must stop and think before baptizing and admitting anyone into membership, especially children. I thought this was an interesting concept. Stop and think. Is this person really saved? Sometimes that is not something that can be known right away. We would have to watch their lives, see how they live and if any fruit is produced in their lives before we could be certain as to whether or not we should baptize them. Later on Kendall and I were going down to the exhibits when we heard an elderly couple walking around saying “I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t baptize people immediately”. Is this how we get so many lost people in our church membership? In many of our churches getting people baptized and into membership is as easy as working a computer mouse, point and click. But should it be? Should we not be more meticulous in who we allow to become members of God’s church? Isn’t it an abomination before God to allow a lost person to be a member, vote, take the Lord’s Supper, and call themselves a Christian in our midst? Doesn’t that dishonor the name of Jesus and cheapen his sacrifice?
Mark Dever’s message dealt specifically with leadership. He feels that churches should have elders, deacons, and a congregation and each has their own function. The elders (pastor, bishop, overseer) primary focus should be the ministry of the Word. Pastors should protect their schedule and devote themselves to the study of God’s word and to prayer. There are plenty of other people in the church that can do what all the little jobs the pastor is forced to do that can often distract him from his main priority, the Word of God. He also mentioned that churches should have several elders, including men who are not on staff. This group of men should continually meet together to discuss the direction of the church and deal with the discipline of the church. The deacons are considered servants. They should organize various ministries in the church and report to the elders. The deacons should care for the physical needs of the congregation and by doing so they will be supporting the ministry of the word by taking care of many of the distractions for the pastor. The congregation itself has many jobs as seen in Matt. 18, 1 Corinth 5, Gal. 6, and 2 Cor. 2:6-8. Discipline is a major part of that job.