April 4, 2012 by C.J. Mahaney
Categories: Conferences | Interviews
Another speaker you’re going to get to meet this year if you join us at Next 2012 is Jared Mellinger, a pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.
Like Kevin, Matt, and Ian, Jared is part of a young generation of pastors that gives me a lot of joy as I think about the future. I won’t get to see all of that future myself, but I can see when I look at these young men that the future is going to be well led, and that the transfer of the gospel between generations is being accomplished. Jared in particular is wise beyond his years (an overused expression, but it’s true) and a gifted expositor of the Word. So enjoy his answers to the questions below, and if you want to hear more of what he has to say about Church Membership, join us in Orlando over Memorial Day weekend at the Next conference.
When did the local church become important to you and why?
I grew up in the church and my parents faithfully modeled the importance of the local church for me. But when I entered the teen years, I became bored with church. The reason the church was boring to me was that God himself was boring to me, and I was blind to his grace in Christ.
It wasn’t until I was entering college as a young Christian that I was forced to think through the role of the church in the life of a believer for myself. I saw that some of the most committed Christians on campus were not remotely committed to the local church, and that struck me as strange. When I was 18 years old, I attended a conference in Baltimore called New Attitude. I heard preaching on the importance of the church, and that set me on a course of loving the church that has continued to this day.
Share just one Scripture passage that has impacted your understanding of the church.
Revelation 1:9-20 (and all of Rev. 1-3) has taught me that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the church, and that he cares greatly about the health of local churches. It is a beautiful picture: The One who loved the church and obtained the church with his precious blood is now risen from the dead and walking among the lampstands, which are the local churches. Jesus fixes his loving attention upon the health and holiness of individual congregations. This is his passion.
I believe our Savior still walks among the lampstands today. And that picture is more than enough to get me fired up about the church.
You're speaking at Next 2012 on "The Church and Membership." Why should this matter to us?
Ultimately, the reason we care about church membership is because God cares about church membership. The Bible teaches that bad things happen when the boundary line between the church and the surrounding world becomes fuzzy, and that glorious things happen when that line becomes clear. Membership is about drawing a clear line around the people of God. Also, I am concerned that too many Christians in our generation are unacquainted with the privileges and protection of church membership.
How would you counsel someone who is looking for a church to join—what should they be looking for?
Don’t care too much about image, the personality of leaders, technological savvy, creativity, the size of the church, and musical style. Those are all overrated. Instead, find a church that treasures the gospel of Jesus Christ, trembles at the word of God, emphasizes preaching and sound theology, seeks the power and presence of the Spirit, abounds in love, faithfully practices the sacraments and church discipline, and is committed to biblical evangelism and missions.
What would you say is the average church member's job description?
The categories in Acts 2:42-47 come to mind. In no particular order: Praise God in all of life, value teaching and doctrine, be devoted to prayer, attend the meetings of the church, practice fellowship and mutual care, use your gifts, walk in unity, give generously, and witness in word and deed.
At Covenant Fellowship Church, we call every member to treasure, proclaim, and grow in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are a family of brothers and sisters in Christ that is marked by each member pursuing gospel-astonishment, gospel-advancement, and gospel-application.
Why don't we just say that everyone is a member of every church, that we're all part of the "universal church?"
While it’s true that all believers are a part of the universal church, God intends for our commitment to the church to find concrete expression in a particular congregation. Church membership is really the only way for us to be truly submitted to pastoral authority (Exactly who is responsible to keep watch over my soul and give an account of me?) and the only way to be subject to the discipline of the church (Exactly who has the right to apply the instructions for church discipline to me or remove me from the church if needed?). In other words, there are clear instructions to Christian leaders and instructions to all Christians that cannot be carried out apart from the idea of membership in a specific, visible local church.
April 3, 2012 by C.J. Mahaney
Categories: Conferences | Interviews
Today I want to introduce you to another Next speaker, Ian McConnell. Ian is a pastor at Grace Bible Church in northeast Philadelphia, and really the best way for you to get to know him is to hear him tell his story in his own words. So below is a video of Ian sharing the story of replanting Grace Bible Church, followed by his answers to some questions related to his conference message topic. From all of that, I’m confident you’ll be able to see why I’m excited to have him teaching this year.
By the way, we’re extending the discount on registration for Next until April 22. So if you want to register at the lowest rate possible, there’s still time. I hope you’ll come!
When did the local church become important to you and why?
I didn’t grow up on “planet Christian” hanging out with followers of Jesus and going to church my whole life, so the very first time I went to a gospel-believing local church was when it became important to me even though I couldn’t have told you why back then. I was an obnoxious teenager who wasn’t very lovable—seriously—I made loving your neighbor really hard. But even though I wasn’t very lovable I immediately experienced unconditional love within the walls of that church. I met followers of Jesus, young and old, who loved as they had been loved. It really was amazing! I think I first started to get God’s love for me through the giving of his Son by the love those people showed me. The local church is where I met Jesus and saw how the Savior’s love radically changes people. I’ve been crazy about the local church ever since.
Share a Scripture passage that has impacted your understanding of the church.
Ephesians 2:22: “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” I am amazed that when we gather as a local church it’s not just us getting together with people—it’s us gathering together in the very presence of God. God comes to church with us—I love that about the local church!
Why should someone skip a Sunday at their church to come to this conference?
I think attending a conference like NEXT for 1 Sunday out of the year will provide some significant equipping to help you go home and love and serve your local church for the other 51 Sundays out of the year and then some!
What do you hope people walk away with from your message?
I hope people walk away in jaw-dropping wonder that because of the gospel, someday Sundays will be forever! If you want to know what I mean by that then you’ll just have to come to NEXT!
What would you say to the person who thinks they can worship God just as well at home or outdoors as they can with the church on Sunday?
I would say that they can’t. Personal access to God’s presence to worship the One who made me and saved me is an undeniable privilege! It’s a soul-satisfying life-transforming experience to go after God privately. However, it’s only part of what we have been made and saved for. The sweeping message of the Bible is that God is calling out a people to make His name great through Jesus. In the garden, God commands Adam to be fruitful and multiply a people. Outside the garden, God graciously promises Abraham that He will make him the father of many people. All of this points us to God’s ultimate plan to call out a people by the gospel for his glory from every people, tribe, tongue and nation who will worship him forever and ever. Even the picture God gives us of what forever is going to be like in the book of Revelation makes it clear that for all eternity we will worship God together in his presence because of Jesus. Gathering in God’s presence with God’s people in our local churches is not only one of our greatest privileges as individual followers of Jesus, it’s also part of submitting to God’s plan for the ages.
What would you say to the person who thinks "You haven't been to my Sunday meeting?"
There are no perfect Sunday meetings! In fact there is only one place you can go to experience the perfect church gathering—it’s called heaven! Be thankful for God’s sovereign plan in having you right where you are, pray for your church, serve with your gifts, and take Charles Spurgeon’s advice,
If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all; and the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.
What relationship do Sunday meetings have to heaven?
Many of the promises of the gospel are held out to us in what really smart people call an “already not yet” tension. Meaning that there are privileges that have been secured for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that we get some of now (already) and the rest of it later when we meet God face to face in heaven (not yet).
Because of Jesus, right now we have the amazing privilege as local churches to gather together in the presence of God to talk to God in prayer; to sing to God with praise and gratitude; to give to God our offerings; to serve our God by building up His people; to reach out to God’s world with the gospel; and to listen to God speak through his Word. These privileges are ours right now. However, the best is yet to come! One day because of Jesus we will be together, not just with our individual local churches, but with the whole CHURCH—all of God’s people from all time! We will talk to God face to face and we will hear from God face to face. We will sing God’s praise so loud and glorious that it will sound like the waves crashing on the beach. And here is what I think will be the best thing of all…wait a minute, I think I am giving away too much of my sermon. I think you get the point. Gathering with God and God’s people on earth, as wonderful as it is, is but a foretaste of how incredible it will be to gather with God and God’s people in heaven! That’s the relationship—the Sunday gathering is a foretaste of the heavenly gathering.