We Are Particularized: Now What?
Last Sunday we celebrated God’s steadfast love and faithfulness as Christ Church became a fully constituted and official congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America. In other words, we moved from church plant status to a particular church with duly elected and installed elders and pastors. Christ Church Presbyterian has been officially planted. Soli Deo Gloria!
So now what?
There is a temptation for newly particularized churches to simply coast— to think that they have somehow arrived and the hard work is done. We need to resist that temptation. Christ is never pleased with spiritual inertia in His Church. He always encourages growth and progress. Indeed, God’s Word exhorts us to “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:15). A healthy church, therefore, does not stay in third gear and rest on past accomplishments. No, a healthy church is active, growing, and forward looking. Stagnancy is the devil’s playground. By the grace of God, we are meant to advance (c.f. Phil. 3:12-15).
The following are a few pastoral exhortations to consider as we enter a new phase of ministry as an organized and self-supporting PCA congregation.
1. A Renewed Commitment to Pray
A fellow church planter told me last week that it’s not uncommon for newly organized churches to experience severe attacks by the evil one. The very thought should motivate us to pray more earnestly for protection, unity, and spiritual-mindedness. We must devote ourselves to pray for our two newly installed elders— for wisdom, humility, godliness, and strength— as they seek to give faithful oversight to the flock. I would also urge you to pray the same for your two newly installed pastors. In addition, pray for our congregation— that together we would grow and mature spiritually. Pray for our covenant children— that their identity would be chiefly in Christ, and not in the vain and transitory things of this world. Pray for those who are hurting— physically, spiritually, emotionally. Pray for the lost, and for opportunities to share the gospel and invite friends and neighbors to church. Pray for the spread of the gospel and the planting of new churches through the missionaries that we support around the world. Pray that God would lead Christ Church to a permanent home, and provide all the necessary resources to secure it.
Every Lord’s Day at 9:50 a.m. we gather to pray in the choir room to pray for these and other crucial items. Would you commit to join us? Would you renew your commitment to prayer and make the congregational prayer meeting a nonnegotiable in your Sunday schedule? A God-centered church is a praying church. May prayer be a growing priority at Christ Church, not a diminishing one, as we enter this new phase of ministry (c.f. Luke 18:1).
2. A Renewed Commitment to Give
A healthy, Biblical church is full of active and committed disciples, not passive and freeloading consumers. Rev. Carl Robbins reminded us last Sunday evening from Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians that a sign of spiritual immaturity is always being a receiver and rarely, if ever, a giver. Every member of the body of Christ is meant to contribute to the encouragement and growth of the whole. God’s Word states, “when each part is working properly, [it] makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:16).
In the membership class I encourage attendees not to join Christ Church if they are unwilling to give sacrificially of their time, treasures, and talents. Authentic Christian discipleship doesn’t consist of merely showing up to morning worship a couple of times per month and popping in to a church activity from time to time. It entails giving— giving of your time to be a regular and active part of the Christ Church community, giving of the first fruits of your income to support the health and advancement of the church, and giving of your life through service to others and the cultivation of soul-nurturing relationships. Salvation costs us nothing, discipleship costs us everything. “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33; c.f. 9:23-27). Therefore, will you renew your commitment to give of your time, treasure, and very lives for the sake of Christ and His church?
3. A Renewed Commitment to Worship and the Means of Grace
Biblical worship is Christian discipleship. Through God’s ordained means of grace— Word, sacraments, and prayer— God nourishes, strengthens, and informs our faith in Christ more than at any other time of the week. We abide in Christ by actively listening to his Word read and preached, and by exercising sincere faith during baptisms and at the Lord’s Table. Through these God-given means our wills and affections are directed towards the One who lived, died, and rose again for our salvation. Moreover, we are taught how to live the Christian life as obedient children (I Pet. 1:14). This is why it is paramount that we commit ourselves to morning and evening worship on the Lord’s Day, a pattern that not only provides us with a double portion of the means of grace, but also helps to keep the entire day set apart to the Lord, and not just a couple hours in the morning. Yes, there will be providential hindrances from time to time. Even so, let us all renew our commitment to bookending the Lord’s Day with God-centered, Christ-exalting, soul-nourishing worship.
4. A Renewed Commitment to Evangelism
Church plants are known to be passionate about reaching out to the unchurched with the good news of the Gospel. I can testify to the fact that over the last three years our congregation has been zealous to share the gospel and invite friends to church. Beloved, let us excel still more in this area. Let us not lose our zeal for evangelism now that we have particularized. We are called to preach the gospel and make disciples, and making disciples first means reaching the lost. Who will you reach out to this week?
Christ Church, let us renew our commitment to pray, give, worship, and reach the lost. And may the love of Christ compel us all to live grateful and obedient lives for the glory of God and the extension of his kingdom in Charleston and the world over.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ~ Heb. 10:23-25
Your Pastor, Servant, and Friend,