Monday, August 31, 2009

AAW- The Purpose Driven© Church Model

The August 26 Ask Anything Wednesday Question of the Week was:
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Purpose Driven© Church Model?

Before we ask about a particular "model" of the church, let's first address "what is a church?" While I cannot hope to be exhaustive on this issue, I can say that Protestant churches have tended to identify threeHistoric Marks of the Church, they are:
The Word - the gospel is rightly proclaimed
The Sacraments - Lord’s Supper & Baptism are rightly administered
Discipline - Members of the church are accountable for the beliefs and behavior

I point this out so that we understand that the Purpose Driven© Model is an attempt to help the church (one bearing the three marks described above) be all that God intends for it to be. Despite what some may be Purpose Driven© or not to be Purpose Driven© is not a matter of fellowship, heresy, or being "hip." Rather, it is an effort to recognize that something "drives" every church...there is a reason a church chooses to use a piano in worship, a reason the pastor chooses to wear a coat and tie, a reason the church must vote to pay the bills. The question popularized by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Church was: "What drives your church?" To say it another way: Why does your church do what it does?

In essence, the Purpose Driven© Model seeks to answer THREE Questions:
• Why are we (the church) here?
• What is our process for making disciples?
• Do we have a strategy to move people to greater levels of commitment?

In answering those questions a Purpose Driven Church…
Is organized around five core purposes of the church found in:
The Great Commission –Mt 28:18-20 and
The Great Commandment – Mt 22:37-40
These purposes are: Worship, Evangelism, Fellowship, Discipleship, and Ministry (or, Service).
These five purposes answer the question: Why are we here? We are here to Worship God, Evangelize the Lost, Fellowship with Believers, Grow in Christ, and Serve the Kingdom. A Purpose Driven© Church seeks to ensure that all five of these purposes are balanced.

A Purpose Driven© Church utilizes an intnetional discipleship process. In other words, a PDC has a plan to make disciples that is intentional, purposeful, and understandable. While some churches will deviate a bit here and there, all PD Churches will strive to be intentional about making disciples. The "ball diamond" has become the image associated with this process...

Finally, a PD Church practices an outside - in perspective to growth and evangelism. That is, PD Churches recognize that not everyone in the church has the same level of commitment. And, that an intentional strategy is required to move people toward greater commitment. The "cocentric circles of commitment" has become the image associated with this reality...

Now that we have a better - albeit brief - understanding of the PD Church...What are some of the WEAKNESSES of PD Model? This, too, is not intended to be exhaustive, but to simply give us some food for thought...
• Can become programmatic. That is, some churches will adopt purpose statements and edesign their “structure” without the heart for lost that is essential. There are many "traditional-minded" churches wearing Purpose Driven© "clothing." When a church "decides" to become Purpose Driven©, the question needs to be asked: "why?" Without a Great Commission answer, I suspect PD is another program being spite of the fact that PD is NOT a program!

• Tendency to “dumb down” the Gospel. I want to be careful to say that this is not an inevitable result of being Purpose Driven©. But, there are those who uncritically adopt a Purpose Driven© approach and ASSUME that means that Bible cannot be preached in its entirety. Here the Pastor and/or Church are fearful to preach the “whole Bible” lest the seeker is offended. In fact, a biblically informed adopting of the Purpose Driven© approach is one that tries to remove as many barriers of offense as possible...with the EXCEPTION of the Bible. God honors his word...proclaim it faithfully and clearly and let God's Spirit do his work!

There are also STRENGTHS of PD Model:
• Biblically-based. I do believe the model is rooted in biblical truth and is not a fad. The five purposes espoused by PD are essential to our faithfully carrying out the Great Commission in the context of the Great Commandment.

• Flexible / Not one style. The PD Model is flexible and is not solely a "contemporary" church approach. There are Purpose Driven© churches in over 100 denominations and/or associations. There are traditional, liturgical, and contemporary churches practicing PD principles. Further, PD is not limited by geography. There are churches practicing these principles throughout all parts of the US and around the world.

• Easy to Understand / Adapt. This is the final strength, in my book...the PD model is adaptable. And...IT MUST BE ADAPTED to each setting. A PD church in California will look different than one in the North East or in the South East. While the principles will be the same, the expression of those principles will vary...and that is how it should be.

Ultimately I believe the Purpose Driven© Model has done far more good than harm. While it has not always been introduced into traditional churches in the best ways, the primary question of the Model remains to be answered by EVERY congregation: What drives your church? Or, Why are you doing what you do? Too many churches resort to doing what they prefer, or what they have always done WITHOUT thinking through a biblical rationale for it. You know you are guilty of this if you don't want someone to ask "why" about an event, a ministry, or a practice your church is engaged in!

At the church I am serving (Raleigh Road Baptist Church), I can assure you that I will always want a biblical rationale for what we do...and, my hope and prayer is that such a rationale will be driven by the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

Monday, August 24, 2009

AAW - Civil Ceremony vs. Religious Ceremony

Marriage issues have dominated the last several questions, which is good...there are lots of things to think about as we contemplate the difference Christ makes in our view of marriage. This week's question is very interesting: If a couple is married in a civil ceremony, do they still have a covenant marriage in the eyes of God?

There are two issues to consider here. The first has to do with God's presence. Several websites mockingly assert that if the ceremony does not happen in a distinctively religious environment, God isn't present, or doesn't see it. The truth is that all of life occurs coram deo: before the face of God. This phrase literally refers to something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live coram Deo is to live one's entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God. So, the idea that “my wedding didn’t happen in a church, God must not recognize it” misunderstands the nature of God and falls victim to a false sacred / secular dichotomy. There is a sacred / secular division, but not because something is not done in “God’s presence.” Everything is done in God’s presence. The question is whether what is done in his presence honors him or dishonors him. So, Can a marriage before a justice of peace honor God? Yes…but that has to do with what defines a marriage…

One component of defining a marriage is the legal / civil aspect…let’s look at:
Mt 19:3-6

3Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"
4"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 5and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? 6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

“Is it lawful?” – this question from the Pharisees about divorce is one that is both a legal and religious question…remember, the Law of Moses was the governing authority for Israel. In Israel the legal and relgious authority was blended. But, the fact that the legal and religious authority are blended in Israel is not a rejection of their co-existence. Think about water...chemically it is H2O…the fact that Hydrogen and Oxygen are together in water does not mean that one of them ceases to exist. In the case of marriage there is a legal authority and a religious authority…

Rom 13:1-2, 5 tells us that God recognized Rome as an instrument; an authority that he placed in power.
1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

God recognizes the role and authority of human government…indeed he instituted it. So, a wedding before a Justice of the Peace takes place within the confines of an institution given to humanity by God…and it is certainly under the gaze of God (coram deo)...

There is not, however, solely a legal basis for marriage...

There are some marriages that may be legal, but are not considered a biblical / God-honoring marriage...or a covenant marriage. For example, gay marriage may be legal…but it fails the second test…what I am calling the Spiritual Component of marriage. We see this in Eph 5…By "spiritual component" I mean at least three things:

1. God-honoring commitment is made (to selfless, monogamous relationship; rejection of polyamorous marriages – entered into with intention of multiple partners.)
Polyamory, reports Newsweek, is having a "coming-out-party." Polyamory is the current "term of art" applied to "families" or "clusters" comprised of multiple sexual partners. As Newsweek explains, this is not exactly polygamy, because marriage is not the issue. Advocates of polyamory argue that their lifestyle is not "open marriage." Indeed, they define their movement in terms of the moral principle of "ethical nonmonogamy," defined as "engaging in loving, intimate relationships with more than one person -- based upon the knowledge and consent of everyone involved."
On Dr. Al Mohler's blog, he said of polyamorous marriages: "The ultimate sign of our moral confusion becomes evident when virtually no one appears ready to condemn polyamory as immoral. The only arguments mustered against this new movement focus on matters of practicality." (

The biblical model is one of leaving and cleaving; leaving and being united…literally two becoming one flesh…not just a sexual act…although it is included…but, in every way, there is an exclusivity intended...a living for the benefit of the one’s spouse.

2. Commitment made between a man and woman (i.e. consistent with biblical model)
Homosexual marriage is an oxymoron (like boneless ribs)…marriage can only be between a man and a woman. I am not here debating the merits / demerits of homosexuality, whether there is a genetic determinate for homosexuality, etc. Rather, I am simply stating that homosexual behavior (like all other sexual sin...pornography, adultery, etc) is sinful - according to the Bible - and the civil uniting of two males or females can never properly be called a marriage.

3. Marriage is picture of Christ and Church (people may not recognize this, but it is true nevertheless)… Every marriage is intended to be a picture of Christ and the Church. I cannot improve on Piper here:

"Now why is the coming together of a man and woman to form one flesh in marriage a mystery? Paul's answer in verse 32 is this: the marriage union is a mystery because its deepest meaning has been partially concealed, but is now being openly revealed by the apostle, namely, that marriage is an image of Christ and the church. Verse 32: "I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church."
So marriage is like a metaphor or an image or a picture or parable that stands for something more than a man and a woman becoming one flesh. It stands for the relationship between Christ and the church. That's the deepest meaning of marriage. It's meant to be a living drama of how Christ and the church relate to each other." (
This spiritual component exists whether we know it or not…so, here is my conclusion…
A marriage can be legal, but not biblical / God-honoring…
A marriage cannot be biblical / God-honoring without being legal…

So, a monogamous marriage commitment between a man and a woman, before a justice of the peace, is every bit a covenant of marriage as one before a pastor in a church.

NOTE: There were several follow up questions about common law marriages, etc which I have not gone into here...but...suffice it to attempt to escape either the legal or the spiritual composition of marriage and honor God!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

AAW - Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, and Church Leadership

The first thing we dealt with last night was the importance of doing “THEOLOGICAL TRIAGE”. Triage is what medical professionals call the process of discerning who needs the most urgent medical attention and whose treatment is not as urgent. In theology, some issues are critical to defining Christianity, some are essential in determining fellowship and cooperation, while others are very debatable and should not separate brothers in Christ. Following the lead of people like Dr. Mohler and Dr. Brand, I offered the following categories:
- Dogma – Issues that make us Christian
- Doctrine – Issues that define the nature and ministry of the Church
- Beliefs – Issues that are genuinely debatable and do not constitute a
denial of essential Christian faith OR require removal from fellowship

As we begin each of the questions over the next few weeks we will try to determine where they fall. Hopefully, this will help us to know how to respond to the answers given!

This was the question received via Facebook:
"My question is in regard to the high percentage of non beleivers who are divorced/remarried with blended families. Some churches limit the level at which these folks can serve while other churches all but ignore these circumstances. Since the RRBC target is the unsaved and unchurched so how will this be approached?"

Esssentially, the issue is: What is RRBC's disposition toward divorced (and possibly remarried) individuals serving in leadership. To respond, we first need a general understanding of the Bible's teaching on Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage...and then we will apply that to the question of Church Leadership.

First...What category do the issues of Divorce and Remarriage fall into?
Marriage, divorce, and remarriage are "largely" in the third category: beliefs. This is because the bible's teaching is open to some difference of opinion.

For example,
John Piper has written that “All marriage after divorce is prohibited while both spouses
are alive.” You can find his rationale at:
Meanwhile, John MacArthur would say that remarriage is permissible in some circumstances.
You can find his ratinoale at:

Since we have two fairly prominent, conservative, bible believing pastor/scholars who come to an honest difference of opinion - yet would not prohibit their fellowship - it would seem that this is likely a third category issue.

Here are four General Biblical Principles regarding Marriage & Divorce, as I understand them:

1. Marriage is intended by God to be between one man and one woman for a lifetime. (Mt 19:1-9; Mk 10:1-12; 1 Cor 7:10-16). This is God's purpose for marriage and it precludes homosexuality being part of God's design.

2. Marriage is a physical picture of the spiritual reality of Christ and the church. (Eph 5:21-32)
The way we treat our spouses makes a spiritual statement about Christ and the church. Consider that the next time you get in a spat!

3. God hates divorce (Mal 2:13-16)
And, I would does everyone who has ever been involved in one.

4. Remarriage is an option if:
- reconciliation is not an option (1 Cor 7:15)
- divorce occurred prior to salvation (2 Cor 5:17)
- remarriage is to another believer (2 Cor 6:14)
- one does not have the gift of celibacy(1 Cor 7:6-9)

These principles should cause us to have a very high view of marriage and reject the culture of divorce that seems to believe that marriage is something you can "try out" to see if it "works for you."

Now, whether formerly divorced persons may serve in leadership is probably in the second category: doctrine…I say probably because I am not 100% may be in the third fact, I might put it right on the line. It may be 2nd category because it affects our understanding of the nature and ministry of the church. However, you may find that you could be a part of a church that held to a view on this particular issue that differed from yours - in which case it would be more of a third level issue. At any rate, the real question is how will we at RRBC deal with it?

Let's first look at our official document:
From Appendix of RRBC Constitution:
Overseer Qualifications:
3. Husband of one wife. (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6)

Deacon Qualifications:
A. Husband of Only One Wife (1 Timothy 3:12) We believe that God has placed the responsibility of the office of deacon upon men (Acts 6:3). A deacon must have a healthy, Bible-based view of marriage and the home. A man shall be eligible for serving as an overseer or deacon provided he has not experienced a divorce within the past ten years and his immediate family is presently in stable condition. The previous marital history of his spouse shall not be taken into consideration. Men who have never been married or widowers are not to be excluded from the deacon body.

In both overseer and deacon qualifications we recognize that a healthy marriage is vitally important. We also recognize that a previously divorced man is not automatically ineligible for serving in either capacity. Let's examine why this is the case...

General Biblical Principles regarding Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage as it pertains to Church Leadership

1. “Husband of one wife” clause is NOT a blanket rejection of anyone who has been divorced.
What do we do with a man who was divorced as a non-believer? Is he a new creature in Christ or not? It is an affirmation of a demonstrable commitment to his wife, and to her alone.

2. “Husband of one wife” clause literally means a “one woman man.”
- Commitment to current spouse is implied.
- Faithfulness to current spouse is implied.
Commitment and faithfulness extend beyond the act of adultery to emotional affairs and to pornography. These demonstrate a lack of commitment and faithfulness.
- Rejection of “culture of divorce” is implied.

3. Commitment and faithfulness are demonstrated over time.
I believe the RRBC “10 year” rule is attempt to quantify this reality. A man who was divorced three months ago, and is already remarried and "promises" to be committed to his wife needs to demonstrate that. While there is no biblical requirement for such a quantifiable time frame, the intention is consistent with the biblical principles of commitment and faithfulness.

4. A number of factors must be taken into account:
- Spiritual condition at time of divorce (beleiver or non-believer at time of divorce?)
- Circumstances of divorce (abandonment? abuse? adultery? self-centeredness?)
- Current spiritual condition of man and wife (are both believers?)
- Current condition of marriage (is marriage health, stable, Christ honoring?)

My conclusion:
- My preference is for men who have been married once to a godly woman and who have exemplary, stable marriages to serve as overseers and deacons.
- For those who are under consideration and have been through the trauma of divorce: Those men must be evaluated, in light of factors above, on a case by case basis with respect to this qualification.
- Ultimately, I believe my conclusion and the RRBC policy are consistent with the biblical injunction for an overseer or deacon to be the "husband of one wife."