Monday, April 23, 2007

Babies and Heaven

Not long ago I taught on heaven in my pastor’s class. I was asked if babies who are miscarried or who die in infancy go to heaven. My answer was immediately, yes! However, I was surprised to discover that not everyone agrees with that statement. There seems to be a contingency of folk, mostly reformed in their theology, that are hesitant to state that babies who die go to heaven.

Well, I’m not, and here’s why. The most convincing passage of scripture has to be 2 Samuel 12:23. David and Bathsheba’s child dies and David rises up from prayer and states that he will go to him. He Implies that the child is in heaven, and that David will one day join him there.

Another passage is Matthew 19:14. Jesus states that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. He is referring to the faith and trust of a child that is necessary to receive Christ. It is hard to imagine that Christ would value a child-like faith so highly and then condemn babies and children to hell.

Yes, I believe in original sin. I believe that we are not born innocent, but that we tainted from conception according to Ps. 51:5 and Ro. 5:15-19. However, no where is the Bible does it state that anyone will be condemned for having a sin nature, or because we have inherited Adam’s guilt. The Bible states that the lost will be judged according to sins committed in the body. Not sins that might have been committed. The idea that God would condemn an infant to Hell that has never had the opportunity or the ability to sin is beyond me.

What the Bible does teach is that God is merciful and forgiving. This is illustrated in Deut. 1:35-39 when God exempted the children who did not know right from wrong from judgment. Babies, infants who died because of a miscarriage, will all enjoy heaven. Anyone who states differently needs to seriously reconsider their understanding of God and His great grace.

Great preachers and theologians of the past agree. The rest of this post is from a paper by Albert Mohler, he gives the position of two of the great preachers of the past.

“John Newton, the great minister who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace was certain of this truth. He wrote to close friends who had lost a young child: "I hope you are both well reconciled to the death of your child. I cannot be sorry for the death of infants. How many storms do they escape! Nor can I doubt, in my private judgment, that they are included in the election of grace."(6) The great Princeton theologians Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield held the same position.

One of the most eloquent and powerful expressions of this understanding of infant salvation came from the heart of Charles Spurgeon. Preaching to his own congregation, Spurgeon consoled grieving parents: "Now, let every mother and father here present know assuredly that it is well with the child, if God hath taken it away from you in its infant days."(7) Spurgeon turned this conviction into an evangelistic call. "Many of you are parents who have children in heaven. Is it not a desirable thing that you should go there, too? He continued: "Mother, unconverted mother, from the battlements of heaven your child beckons you to Paradise. Father, ungodly, impenitent father, the little eyes that once looked joyously on you, look down upon you now, and the lips which scarcely learned to call you father, ere they were sealed by the silence of death, may be heard as with a still small voice, saying to you this morning, ‘Father, must we be forever divided by the great gulf which no man can pass?’ Doth not nature itself put a sort of longing in your soul that you may be bound in the bundle of life with your own children?"

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What is that you do?

Over the years I've had several people ask me, just what it is that pastors do. To be honest, most people are just plain clueless! As one smart alex said, "how hard can it be, you only work one day a week!" First, let me say that I love being a pastor. There is nothing else in the world that I want to do, or can imagine myself doing. I am humbled that God would chose a sinful, weak, and undeserving man like to me to preach the Gospel and lead God's church. I am passionate about it, I love it, and I hope to continue preaching and pastoring until I'm dead or too old or sick to step up to the pulpit.

But, again, what is it that pastors do? That question has to be defined by Scripture. If we allow culture or the church growth movement to define it we will lose it. We will lose the biblical ministry of a pastor, that is. We may retain the title, but the true Biblical office will be lost.
So what does the Bible teach about pastoring?

Dr. Jim Shaddix uses the word pastor as an acrostic to spell out the work of the ministry. I've taken what he wrote and changed it somewhat.

P- Prayer
A - Administer the Vision
S - Shepherd the flock
T - Teach the Word
O - Outreach and evangelism
R - Reproduce myself

P - Prayer - The pastor simply must be a man of prayer in Acts 6:4 - the apostles stated that their duty was to prayer and the ministry of the Word.

A - Administer the Vision- The pastor is the overseer of the church. He provides the leadership and the vision the Church needs to fulfill the great commission. In fact, the church's vision has already been given to us by Christ in Matthew 28 - "Go, therefore and make disciple." The pastor is called to creatively communicate and administrate that vision on all levels of church life. Dr. Shaddix writes: One of the synonyms for the pastor in the New Testament is bishop, or overseer. As the pastor, I’m responsible for overseeing the ministry of the church. It’s my task to make sure that the church is fulfilling its mission as the people of God and that all the parts are working in a cooperative effort effectively and efficiently. I’m responsible for mobilizing the membership to care for one another as well as reaching out to others. And I’ve got to make sure that it’s all being done with biblical integrity, moral purity, as well as financial responsibility.

S - Shepherd - Of all the titles and metaphors used to describe spiritual leadership, the most fitting is that of a shepherd. The shepherd cares for the sheep, he protects the sheep, and feeds the sheep. God's people must be cared for. Crisis times such as sickness or death are vital moments of ministry for the pastor. Before they can be lead, the flock must know they are cared for.

T - Teach the Word - The pastor's primary responsibility is to preach the word of God. Paul commanded Timothy to "Preach the Word, both in season and out." The lion's share of a pastor's time must go the preparation and delivery of expository sermons.

O- Outreach - Paul instructed Timothy to "do the work of an evangelist." The pastor absolutely must have a heart for outreach and evangelism. The church's passion for evangelism is determined by the pastor. He is the pace setter and the model that people will follow. Both in the pulpit, in weekly visitation, and day by day witnessing the pastor must be a soul-winner.

R - Reproduce myself - Paul commanded young Timothy "the things you have heard from me . . . commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." Developing Godly leadership is vital to the future of the church.

There is really only an overview, but I hope it will give you a glimpse into my (and I think a Biblical) philosophy of pastoral ministry.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Now, for the second installment on Church Membership.


Was church membership practiced in the New Testament? Although the Bible does not directly state that the early churches had a formal membership roll, a close study of the New Testament does seem to indicate that there was some form of church membership. None of the examples that will be stated are overwhelming on their own, yet taken as a whole they form a strong argument for a formal church membership. Mike McKinley in an article on church membership provides several biblical examples that demonstrate the practice of church membership in the early church.

1) Those reluctant “to join” the church. In Acts 5:13 we are told that “None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem.” This occurs in the wake of the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira. Fear gripped both believers in the church and the non-believers who heard of the events. The word join means ‘to bind closely together’ or to ‘unite.’ This certainly seems to describe some sort of formal arrangement.

2) The list of widows. In I Timothy 5:9-12 Paul gives Timothy instructions on caring for the widows within the fellowship. He refers to women who had been ‘enrolled’ in the list of widows. This certainly seems to suggest a formal list. It is hard to imagine having a list of widows and not having a list of members of the congregation.

3) The practice of church discipline. In 2 Corinthians 2:6 Paul refers to the “punishment of the majority.” The existence of a majority means that there was a clearly defined group of people from which this majority was constituted. There cannot be a majority of an unspecified group, there must be a majority of something. “Was it a majority of people who happened to be present the day the vote was cast? Could non-Christians vote? Could any Christians who happened to be visiting from another city who didn’t know the situation vote? The most natural assumption to make is that Paul meant the majority of an acknowledged membership of the church.”[1]


Along with the Biblical basis of membership there are several practical, logical reasons for having a formal church membership roll. Healthy church membership is basically an act of commitment. When joining people should understand that they are committing to attend worship, be involved in a small group, serve God through the use of their God-given giftedness, and give their tithes and offerings to that local fellowship. What motivates people to make that kind of commitment is an understanding of the practical benefits that church membership brings. Rick Warren lists several benefits to church membership in his book The Purpose Driven Church.

1) Church membership identifies a person as a genuine believer in Christ Jesus.

2) Membership provides a spiritual family to support and encourage them in their walk.

3) The church provides a place to discover and use their gifts in ministry.

4) Membership places people under the spiritual protection of Godly leadership.

5) Church membership provides much needed accountability for spiritual growth, service, and holiness of life.

[1] Mike McKinley, Church Membership and the NCLHGA, 9Marks ministry