2021 Annual Family Meeting Information

Each year, we have an annual meeting to:

select officers, approve the budget for the succeeding year, and address any other matters which might concern the Church at that time.

Bylaws III.2.c.

Tonight’s meeting (1-14-2021) has several things on the agenda:

  • We will review what God did in 2020 in and through The Church at Sunsites.
  • We will cast vision together for 2021.
  • We will talk about what the congregation would like to see happen in 2021.
  • We will be updated on the state of the local association and national convention.
  • We will select our non-profit officers for 2021.
  • We will hear the 2020 financial report and approve the budget for 2021.
  • We will reaffirm two elders (Andrew and Albert) and one deacon (Steve).

The meeting is on campus at 6:30pm. If you cannot attend in person but would like to be involved, please join via Zoom. Here is the Zoom link:

https://zoom.us/j/98075409491

Time for Vision

During my first elders’ meeting with the other elders of the church in early 2019, Albert asked, “What is your vision for the church.” Where did I see the church in five or ten years? I shared my desire to emphasize outreach and missions, but I told the elders that I did not have a five or ten year plan for TCATS. I wanted to get to know the church, first, which takes a couple years.

It takes at least two years, sometimes longer, for any transition when a new pastor comes to a church. The congregation has to become familiar with a new personality–a pastor who is not like the previous because no two people are the same or do things the same way. The incoming pastor has to get to know not only the church members, but attenders and the community at large. Added to these challenges, The Church at Sunsites lost her previous pastor, Ted, to cancer not long after his retirement. And, 2020 shook us all around again, making everything more difficult. We needed at least the two years we have had together before any real vision-casting was done. Approaching 2021, I was looking for signs that the congregation was ready to really get moving for the cause of the Gospel and relight the lamp at the top of this lighthouse in the desert.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish,” Albert reminded me during an elders meeting in the later half of last year. The verse is Proverbs 29:18, and by it Solomon instructed his son to provide direction to his son. Vision is direction. We know our purpose (glorify Christ) and mission (expand Christ’s kingdom), what is our vision or direction? Albert’s question was the first sign to me that we are ready to develop vision for this chapter in the life of The Church at Sunsites.

I have been working hard to share the Gospel and promote the ministries of The Church at Sunsites. I have been building relationships in our community, and trying to plan ways to reach our community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All of the sudden, quite a few people I love seemed really angry with me about something. I responded badly because of my experiences at previous churches. You remember the Sunday I repented during the sermon and couldn’t hold back my tears? That was because of all this. The experience was sanctifying for almost everyone. I became a better servant, and I think it finally brought those who wanted to work as a team together as local church servant-leadership. “God had a reason,” Steve said with a smile on his face. Skin grafts and organ transplants require time to take. After two years of healing and struggling together, I think TCATS was finally reborn. The general frustrations of 2020 helped with that. I sat with the deacons, and they started talking about godly vision. That was the second sign. The deacon body and elders were unified–not in a passive way but in a very active way.

Our study of 1 Corinthians (a study I’ve been planning for about a year), could not have been timed more perfectly. God seems to work like that. A church member approached me and said, “You know, it might be good for us to talk about the basics of church.” Such was Paul’s goal as he wrote to the Corinthian believers. This church member was concerned that we were merely doing church rather than being the church. This, matched with other comments about people not feeling like they were part of the church or frustrated because things were not as unified as they once were, were together the third sign. Congregation members are beginning to ask, “What is our purpose.” Others desire to be more involved in the ministry of the church. That’s good! All of the emotions, angst, and frustrations were necessary parts of the transition (and the mourning process). Events and meetings the church did with Ted kind-of fell away. The church hurt, even experiencing difficulty amidst the pastor search committee before I came, and needed time. Some of what we did, we did from a place of stress and obligation rather than with heartfelt sincerity; yes, even me. We honor Ted and his ministry. The grieving process was tumultuous and will doubtless have invisible residual effects on us, but we can now look to the horizon. Family, I am proud of you. In the past couple of months I have seen amazing forgiveness, a rejection of gossip, and a willingness you have to consider others more important than yourselves on all matters. We have rediscovered what it means to live full of the Holy Spirit. There was a sweet spirit before. Though 2020 was rough, there is now an even sweeter spirit in The Church at Sunsites (if that’s possible).

As we consider our vision, here is my commitment to you:

  • I am devoted to you in all things,
  • I will lead in the vision we develop together,
  • I will not run without you,
  • I will consider you more important than myself,
  • We will run the race our Lord has given us together,
  • I am always available to you because this isn’t merely a job, and
  • I am on your team for your good unconditionally.

I want to do things well. I want our vision to be a biblical one. I want it to be the vision of Christ and of the whole congregation, not only me.

In our constitution, we have already described our purpose and mission.

The purpose of the Church is to glorify Jesus Christ through worship, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, and ministry (Constitution III).

The mission of the Church is to seek to lead the people of Sunsites and surrounding areas to Christ as Lord and to expand the work of the Kingdom of Christ into all the world by meeting the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of persons near us and supporting the work of other like- minded churches by our participation both personally and financially (Constitution IV).

We can summarize these by saying our purpose is to glorify Christ and our mission is to expand the kingdom of Christ. Biblically, that is the purpose and mission of the church. What about vision? What is our end goal? What tangible outcome are we working toward that we can grab hold of, invest our time and finances in, and invite others into? Our purpose is to glorify Christ. Our mission is to advance Christ’s kingdom. What does that look and feel like?

I’m going to do something a little crazy and ask you to recall the sermon from the first Sunday of Advent–”Hope.” Do you remember what the messianic hope was? Peace and justice on the earth—measurable outcomes of the Gospel being worked out. That’s vision. God’s vision, what His Gospel work is accomplishing, is peace on earth and justice for all people. People don’t realize that their participation with the true church body accomplishes very real results in the world—results that every person and nation long for. Worldly institutions, rulers, and social means of justice are failing. Christ is not. The world desperately needs the church and the vision laid out in the Old Testament. In large part, the church in America has lost sight of Christ’s vision. It separated out of the world, became religious, and stopped speaking into the world as if the Gospel actually accomplishes peace and justice among the nations. It comes together to glorify Christ by neglecting the world. Christ gave His church her mission because that is how He is accomplishing His own vision. We are to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded. The church drives peace and justice in the world by carrying the Gospel message of hope. Through Gospel proclamation, Christ is conquering the world just like He promised in the Old and New Testaments.

What does that mean for our valley? Well, most churches I know of spends their time condemning the world and sharing a defensive Gospel, “If you don’t want to go to Hell, come to Jesus because the whole world is being destroyed and that’s your only hope.” When Christ spoke to Peter, He told Peter that He would build His church through the ministry of the apostles and the gates of Hell would not be able to stand against it (Matthew 16:17-20). Gates are defensive structures. Christ and His church are placed in the offensive position against the gates of Hell. Christ promises success. If we take on Christ’s vision for our valley and continue to expand the kingdom of heaven on this earth through making disciples like Christ instructed, we will be, perhaps, the only local church sharing an offensive Gospel, “Come follow Christ. He will save you and use you to renew His world. This is how we see peace and justice in our time.” What a different, hopeful, proclamation! Now, there’s something I can invest in! The best part… It’s true, and it’s Christ’s vision for the world—including our valley. The church is the institution through which the world is being made new. We are charging against Hell and its gates cannot stand.

What a Biblical Vision Means for Our Valley (and all the places we expand Christ’s kingdom through church planting and web ministry)

  1. Since Christ is building His kingdom, broken homes unite,
  2. wayward children return to Christ,
  3. people experience less anxiety and more joy,
  4. people become less condemning of others,
  5. friendships are restored,
  6. conflict between individuals, households, and different philosophies is lessened,
  7. marriages are mended,
  8. parents raise their children well and wisely,
  9. people begin to care for the resources God has provided,
  10. people no longer live in fear,
  11. crime rates lessen,
  12. trade becomes fairer,
  13. people become better at their trades,
  14. people become more generous and less stingy,
  15. and so much more.

All because the Gospel accomplishes Christ’s vision for the whole world; It is effective. If our vision reflects Christ’s, we can invite people to invest in The Church at Sunsites. Such a vision calls parents to raise their children in a healthy church. We want the generation following us to be prosperous and experience the kingdom of heaven coming to earth—something the world has not been able to accomplish through its own education, training, or workforce. We desire Christ’s blessings to radiate from The Church at Sunsites to our valley, county, state, country, and world such that we don’t condemn the world to destruction but see Christ conquering and renewing the world through peace by making disciples of all nations (cf. John 3:17, Matthew 28:18-20).

Vision drives the events we plan together, the outreach we do, and the missions we are involved in. Vision provides structure in an otherwise mad world. The vision we develop together on January 14 will help to establish the place of The Church at Sunsites in the kingdom of heaven in our day and in the future–like the vision of the church under Ted provided the path on which we continue to walk and the foundation on which we continue to build. Family, let’s get to work. Love you.

TCATS Mobilized for World Mission

You might not know it, but part of my job description is to mobilize the Church at Sunsites for world mission (Bylaws IV.2.b.xi). The responsibility is biblical because every Christian is to do the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and the pastors of the church are to train the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). This year, the congregation will discuss and set its own vision for 2021. But, over the last two years I have emphasized missions and outreach. Those emphases were not on accident. When I started in 2018, I went to work figuring out how to mobilize The Church at Sunsites for world mission. There are two parts to my missional responsibility as an elder (along with the other elders) at this local church. 1) I am to mobilize the local church, not merely ask it to give money to the cooperative program of the SBC or CBA. 2) I am to mobilize The Church at Sunsites around the world, beginning in the Sulfur Springs Valley. I wish you could know how difficult a task this really is and how many people hate the work that goes into fulfilling such a responsibility. After two years of laying the groundwork, monotonous work that is largely invisible to most, I hope to mobilize the church in two ways: (1) locally through our deacon ministry’s benevolence fund, and (2) by directly sharing the Gospel with people in nations around the world.

Some of you might recall a Wednesday evening in 2019 in which we talked with a pastor in Liberia who began following the ministry of The Church at Sunsites and began modeling his own church after the church here. That meeting was the result of my striving to fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to me by the congregation here in Sunsites. Well, I guess we stumbled upon a worldwide need by accident. I started investing some of my time and money in Christians and ministries around the world. Then, some of you wanted to start contributing too. Upon researching liability issues connected with world mobilization, I realized a need to incorporate the work that accidentally began. The Church at Sunsites did not have the appropriate corporate structure for us to do anything more than give to missions organizations or go on short-term mission trips. The work I had stumbled upon and the need for long-term mobilization was impossible.

I remembered our elders’ trip to Shepherds’ Conference earlier in 2019. I remembered hearing that MacArthur’s church was able to mobilize in the way that happened upon me. How did Grace Community Church accomplish such mobilization for the Gospel? I discovered that the church was doing work through two parachurch corporations, Master’s Seminary and Grace to You. I’m a logistician, so I was able to put the pieces together and see how the machine worked pretty easily. It was genius and still promoted the local church instead of parachurch organizations, which is biblical. I had a blog that I operated for nine years, which had some similarities to Grace to You. So, I experimented by filing articles of incorporation under the name of the blog for a public charity for the purpose of worldwide education, training, and benevolence. I received my incorporated statue and tax-exempt status, and suddenly had a parachurch ministry (which is really simply a glorified blog) that provides the infrastructure needed to mobilize the Church at Sunsites for world mission in ways most churches cannot because they don’t have the structure necessary.

I spent a year-and-a-half making contacts and building rapport–which cost me almost no time. Hundreds of people a day started contacting me and poring over the teaching coming out of The Church at Sunsites (I had to do some major shifting to limit the amount of people trying to contact me). I didn’t bring the church in because I really didn’t know exactly what was happening. I started personally investing in pastors around the world and their ministries because they started coming to me. Some of you have been very eager to get involved. This year, it’s time for me to bring the church alongside me in the work that I did not plan if the congregation desires to be involved. Because of the infrastructure I developed and parachurch status, mobilizing for world missions costs TCATS nothing financially.

I will bring this up as we talk about our vision on January 14. Before that, and because of the Gospel work through TCATS, I am meeting with about 50 pastors and church leaders in Kenya via Zoom. The churches there have many needs and are struggling with the doctrines of Heaven and Hell, baptism, and speaking in tongues. You don’t know it, but you have been accidentally investing in these pastors for about a year now. I would love for you to meet them if you are able. You can come to the church at 5am on Monday, January 11, 2021 or register and attend via Zoom (no cost). Why so early? 5am here is 3pm in Kenya. Click here to register if you would like to attend from home.

When I came in view of a call in 2018 and told the church I was interested in church planting, the congregation members responded with their desire that I (1) get a PhD, (2) put myself out there and publish, and (3) mobilize the church for world mission. I could not have laid this groundwork without you. May the Gospel continue to flourish through The Church at Sunsites. May our work in our own community and around the world light up the darkness. May we be the lighthouse in the desert.

Deacons and Denarii

Families are more blessed when they do things together. There are two things we never see in Scripture. We never read about a rogue pastor or deacon being the solo church successfully. We never see healthy local churches in which the members are not at work. Our church bylaws explicitly state that 

“administering the business affairs of the Church that pertain to its material assets” (IV.3.b.vi.)

and 

“administering a fund to assist the poor and needy and otherwise providing aid in times of crisis or distress” (IV.3.b.i.) 

are the responsibilities of the deacon body. Is the stance in our bylaws biblical? If so, why are deacons given the explicit responsibility to manage the local church’s material assets?

There is nothing explicitly in Scripture about how the finances of the church should be managed specifically. There are those who argue that funds should be managed by the elders based on Acts 11:30. There are those who argue that funds should be managed by the deacons based on Acts 6:1-6. Both arguments are made from inference. The argument based on Acts 11:30 in favor of elders managing the finances of the church does not, though, consider context. Paul was collecting money for a relief mission. It was not a general offering but missions money donated so that Paul might disperse it in his personal ministry. The argument made from Acts 6:1-6 in favor of deacons managing church finances is more convincing. According to the descriptive text in Acts 6, deacons manage the practical and material ministries of the church, and elders manage and oversee the spiritual ministries of the church. Thus, it is good that our bylaws prescribe deacons as the financial and material managers of The Church at Sunsites. We understand that the elders oversee the deacon ministry (Bylaws IV.2.b.vi; cf. Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:2), but deacons are to manage the finances faithfully.

We desire mature believers to manage the finances of the church—those who meet the qualifications given for deacons in 1 Timothy 3. The Church at Sunsites is guarded in two ways. First, the elders have the freedom to focus on the spiritual health of the congregation and minister to the community. Second, a qualified team of deacons administers the money of the church according to God’s will, not merely human preference. Hopefully the money is used on the kingdom of heaven rather than the kingdoms of people—for God’s glory and the good of those who love Him. 

On December 29, 2019, we appointed a few deacons and instituted our deacon ministry. Throughout 2020, we have been increasing our understanding of the purpose deacons serve in the church and community—conforming ourselves more to our own bylaws and the heart of Scripture. In 2021, I want to call our local church to take the next stride forward in our ministry. 

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). That’s what Jesus says, correct? In the same instruction, Jesus teaches us to build up for ourselves treasures in heaven rather than on the earth. We can tell what anyone worships by looking at his or her bank statement or budget. Like Paul, I do personal missions and invite others to contribute. That’s the work you see through my personal blog. I hope you do personal missions too, for we are Christ’s ambassadors. The same is true for a local church. We can observe the expenditures or budget and see what a local church congregation worships. Are we building up treasures in heaven or on earth? We cannot do both. Where our treasure is, that is where our hearts are. That’s why New Testament churches prioritize paying their pastors and missionaries (cf. Luke 10:7; 1 Corinthians 9:9-14; Philippians 4:18; 1 Timothy 5:17-18) and the distribution of food (cf. Acts 2:41-42; 6:1-6) over most everything else. The pastors provided spiritual food, and the deacons provided physical food; both spiritual and physical life are necessary investments, and neither is to be neglected. I have seen two different types of budgets in different local churches.

The first type of budget prioritizes programs and staff positions required by those programs. I refer to this kind of budget as an inward-focussed budget. Buy the technology, fund the youth program for our youngsters, pay a man for his charisma rather than his ability to train the saints for ministry, get the pretty curtains for the church building, but don’t give anything to the needy because we don’t want them taking advantage of us; their probably going to just buy drugs anyway… Where our treasure is, there our hearts are. Do we worship Christ or ourselves? Is this a church gathering , social club, or corner store? In all the churches I have seen with this type of budget, they are all plateaued or declining. If they happen to be growing, it is only for a season—until something newer and cooler comes along or until their personality preacher retires.

The second type of budget prioritizes people. I refer to this kind of budget as an outward-focussed budget. Churches spend less on their amenities and programs, more on providing sincere needs in their communities. When churches provide sincere needs, the Gospel goes out, people receive Jesus, and the local church grows. Surprise, the last are first like Jesus teaches.

I love being a pastor. I love my church, and I love my community. I invest more and more with every passing day because I want people to know Jesus and experience the justice and peace He brings. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: There is a limit to the Gospel impact I can have in our community as a pastor. Shocking, I know. Most people think a local church’s success depends only on the guy who gets to present the word on Sunday morning. Nothing could be further from the truth. Gospel ministry depends on the work of the whole congregation. I serve by preaching, evangelizing, and doing missions. I am a fellow servant with you. Every successful pastor depends on his congregation and the biblical ministry of the deacons. After a turbulent year of preparation and solidifying our deacon ministry, I believe we are ready to implement a deacon benevolence fund.

This benevolence fund is a discretionary fund for our deacons, vesting in them the authority to provide sincere needs within our church body and community. God has called all those who serve in the office of deacon to such a work for His own glory and the good of His people. When we become aware of any needs, our deacons will be equipped to help on behalf of the church body, and the Gospel will flourish even more as a result of the whole congregation’s ministry according to our calling in Christ.

I will see you on January 14.

Your servant,
Andrew

Elder and Deacon Reaffirmation: Why We Vote

This year, our two elders and one of our deacons is up for reaffirmation. Here is what you need to know.

Our polity (church government)

The Church at Sunsites is an elder-led, congregational church. The elders (pastors) of the church are responsible to preach and teach and lead the spiritual matters of the congregation. They are accountable to God and to the body of believers for the spiritual stewardship of the church. At The Church at Sunsites, we recognize the dangers of having one pastor who rules the local church, a multi-site church, or a denomination. 1) Every pastor is imperfect. If he rules a congregation on his own, he will lead the congregation into sin even if his doctrine is sound. We can see the trend easily enough because there are many people who follow men like John MacArthur, John Piper, David Jeremiah, Franklin Graham, Matt Chandler, and Doug Wilson rather than Jesus Christ. Many people follow their local pastors (or their preferences concerning a type of pastor) rather than Christ. Many pastors expect to be followed. At The Church at Sunsites, we desire an atmosphere that glorifies God and exalts Jesus Christ positively. The Church at Sunsites is not led by a single pastor. I (Andrew) have the privilege of presenting God’s word on most Sundays and doing much of the pastoral work (that is my labor on this earth), but I do not lead The Church at Sunsites by myself. I certainly do not rule over the congregation—that place is reserved only for Christ. We have multiple elders servant-leading together and keeping one another accountable to the Scriptures as our authority. 

Our church bylaws dictate that each elder and deacon is to be reaffirmed by vote of the congregation every third year following their initial occupation of the church office (Bylaws IV.2.d; IV.3.d).

Reaffirmation is not a vote of confidence.

A vote of confidence is the end result of the church disciplinary process being exercised against an elder or deacon at the final stage of church discipline (Bylaws IV.4.b). If we ever did reach the point of a vote concerning the congregation’s confidence in an elder or deacon, the previous steps prescribed by Jesus in Matthew 18 will have been followed first. Even a vote of confidence does not result from unmet expectations or preferences because we follow Jesus, not ourselves.

Reaffirmation is not reelection.

Our elders and deacons do not serve terms like other administrative positions (cf. Bylaws 5). They are not being elected to serve another term in office. Their offices are offices in the church, not like governing offices we consider in worldly politics today. Their offices are offices of service to the congregation and community.

Reaffirmation is accountability and discipleship.

The responsibilities of our elders and deacons were agreed upon by the congregation when the bylaws were initially drafted. Upon becoming a member of The Church at Sunsites, each person agrees to uphold the church constitution and bylaws. The responsibilities of the elders are primarily to devote themselves to prayer and the Word. Elders are responsible for governing the Church as godly servant leaders. They must teach the Word and tend the flock by:

  • Examining prospective members and candidates for baptism and acquainting them with the Church at Sunsites statement of faith.
  • Overseeing the process of church discipline.
  • Examining prospective candidates for office.
  • Scheduling and providing a moderator for business meetings.
  • Providing for reporting and recording of official Church business.
  • Overseeing the work of the deacons and appointed church agents and committees, conducting worship services.
  • Administering the ordinances of the Gospel.
  • Equipping the membership of the Church for the work of ministry.
  • Teaching the whole counsel of God both formally and informally, correcting error.
  • Overseeing, coordinating, and promoting the ministries of the Church.
  • Mobilizing the Church for world mission (Bylaws IV.2.b; explained in detail below).

The responsibilities of the deacons are to advise and assist the elders in any service that shall support and promote the ministry of the Word, new and existing ministries of the Church, and care for the members of the congregation by:

  • Administering a fund to assist the poor and needy and otherwise providing aid in times of crisis or distress.
  • The greeting and welcoming ministries of the Church.
  • Assisting in administering the ordinances of the Gospel.
  • Assisting at fellowship gatherings of the Church.
  • Caring for and maintaining the Church properties.
  • Administering the business affairs of the Church that pertain to its material assets (Bylaws IV.3.b; explained in detail below).

The congregation is responsible to hold elders and deacons to the responsibilities of their offices as prescribed in the local church bylaws, not personal or cultural expectations. This process helps keep elders and deacons doing what the congregation has identified as their responsibilities in the church according to Scripture.

Membership

In the congregational model we have chosen as our governing rule, membership is an important and practical church office whereby the congregation is a kingdom of priests and every member is an essential part of the church body. Elders cannot lead by themselves. Deacons fill a biblical role. Everything is decided and done by the body at large—through the representative authority vested in the elders and deacons and through the deciding on initiatives, vision, budget, and buildings.

The church is plural elder led and congregational. Consequently, not everything I desire to do gets done. Things take longer. I cannot build the church I want based on my desires. That is a good thing if the congregation is following Jesus; the congregation (including elders and deacons) do their best to discern the will of God and try to affirm God’s direction for the church together—as one body.

Is it biblical?

A local church’s business meetings are a good indicator as to whether or not it is honoring Christ. There are very unbiblical forms of elder rule and congregationalism. Some forms of congregationalism are actually rule by church bullies (who are not really Christians). Scripture is vague concerning any form of church polity. I can reasonably defend both presbyterian and congregational polity from the text of Scripture. In Scripture, we see elders appointing elders, congregational votes concerning the affirmation of deacons recommended by elders, and congregations instructed to do the work of excommunication at the close of church discipline if needed. Every exact form of church government, though, is defined by inference.

Congregationalism is unbiblical when a local church has unregenerate church members, people who do not really know Christ, voting on what they think the will of God is. Church budgets, for instance, are not about penny-pinching or funding the particular programs we want funded; they are about doing the missional work of the church in the local community. If people do not have the heart of Christ, which is given through regeneration, congregational churches quickly become social clubs and the budget is turned inward and centered on the people rather than on Christ and the work He has given the church. Unregenerate church members select teachers for themselves based on their own desires rather than God’s. If the local congregation had any light, it is extinguished, the local church plateaus. Eventually it goes into decline and, if it does not have to close its doors, it limps on passed over by its community and serving no real purpose. Congregationalism can lead to ruin—but only if the members are unregenerate and care not about the mission of Christ, their Lord.

If the members are regenerate (born again), then they know what it is to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Jesus. The local church becomes an unstoppable force of unity, clarity, and truth in its community. The members understand that the church is not a celebrity culture, an event, or centered on them. They understand that the church business meeting is about going to work in a real way for our Lord, Jesus Christ. Even if they disagree on particulars, they are unified by the will and Spirit of God.

What if an elder or deacon is not reaffirmed by the congregation?

There are only two reasons an elder or deacon should not be reaffirmed. 1) He or she no longer meets the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-12, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-4 (Bylaws IV.2.a; IV.3.a). 2) He or she is no longer fulfilling the responsibilities of the office according to Bylaws 2b or 3b. By the time of reaffirmation, the process of accountability concerning these two things should already be underway if a pastor has slipped concerning his character or fulfillment of the responsibilities of the office. If there is repentance and sincere correction, the congregation has won that elder or deacon and has stronger servant-leaders as a result—which is much more profitable than a lack of reaffirmation (or voting or leaving a church without first voicing biblical concerns). Our sanctification (elders and deacons included) is worth more than our comfort or preference because it works for our good and God’s glory.

If, however, an elder or deacon is obstinate, refuses to return to the character qualifications of his or her office, continues to neglect the responsibilities of his or her office, and is consequently not reaffirmed by the congregation, a special meeting will be called to remove or retain the elder or deacon by vote of the church (Bylaws IV.4.c). Until the special business meeting, the elder or deacon retains his or her office.

Reconciliation

In the church, discipleship and the building up of our brothers and sisters in Christ is always the goal. If a congregation removes a pastor or deacon, it should be done for the good of the congregation and the pastor or deacon being removed. If God has called an elder or deacon to occupy such a church office, the call of God is not removed because His calling is by grace alone. If there is sincere repentance and correction, there should be a path back into office if that be the Lord’s will. The path back into office should be the same as that of a new elder or deacon—he should be weighed by the elders and, if he meets the qualifications and takes on the responsibilities, he should be presented to the congregation for affirmation. With such a heart, the congregation of God models the grace and forgiveness of God and practices brotherly love as we see prescribed in Scripture. This, though, is a matter of biblical application and not of our bylaws.

Membership Status Upon Removal

If an elder or deacon is removed from office, he or she retains membership in the local church with the responsibilities and liberties of church membership. Excommunication is a different work.

Prudence

Though it is not unbiblical for a local church to have only one or two elders, it is prudent to have at least three. One man should not try to lead a church by himself, and two men may disagree about something and never make a resolution. In the event that a local church is left with less than three elders and a new elder or deacon needs to be evaluated and presented to the congregation, it is prudent to involve an adequate number of elders from a sister church of like faith and order in the evaluation process. It is not prudent for one person to evaluate and present individuals to the church to fill an office. Neither is it prudent for the congregation to simply select someone for office without the leadership of an elder counsel. In the event that a local church is left without any elders, it is prudent for that congregation to seek the leadership of the elders of a sister church of like faith and order, since only elders have the specific responsibility of evaluating and presenting candidates for office (Bylaws IV.2.d[1]; IV.3.d[1]).

Responsibilities Explained

Elders

The responsibilities of the elders are primarily to devote themselves to prayer and the Word. Elders are responsible for governing the Church as godly servant leaders. They must teach the Word and tend the flock by:

  • Examining prospective members and candidates for baptism and acquainting them with the Church at Sunsites statement of faith.
    1. The elders of the church carry the responsibility to be sure, as much as possible, that those who desire to covenant with the local church body as members are actually regenerate and follow Christ.
  • Overseeing the process of church discipline.
    1. The process of church discipline includes the congregation, but the elders carry the responsibility to oversee the process—keeping any issues from causing division in the body.
  • Examining prospective candidates for office.
    1. Since elders have been evaluated and proven to be mature followers of Jesus Christ, they are to evaluate other candidates for office according to Scripture—ensuring that immature or infant Christians are not merely choosing for themselves officers according to their own desires.
    2. This includes any prospective candidate for office who will be paid for service.
  • Scheduling and providing a moderator for business meetings.
    1. An elders do not have to moderate the meetings of the local church, but are responsible to choose a member in good standing to moderate according to the church bylaws.
  • Providing for reporting and recording of official Church business.
    1. The elders, themselves, do not have to record or report the business of the church, but they are responsible to be sure that church business is recorded and reported.
  • Overseeing the work of the deacons and appointed church agents and committees, conducting worship services.
    1. Deacons serve practically under the spiritual authority of the elders. While this is the case, deacons’ have authority delegated to them that is not delegated to elders—so, deacons can and should do some things that elders should not do according to the way we have chosen to operate.
  • Administering the ordinances of the Gospel.
    1. Elders are responsible to administer baptism and communion.
  • Equipping the membership of the Church for the work of ministry.
    1. In accordance with Ephesians 4:11-12, elders are responsible to not take the whole work of ministry upon themselves but to train church members and empower them for ministry in the church and community.
  • Teaching the whole counsel of God both formally and informally, correcting error.
    1. Teaching the whole counsel of Scripture is the primary way the congregation is equipped and empowered for ministry in Christ. So, that is what our elders devote themselves to.
  • Overseeing, coordinating, and promoting the ministries of the Church.
    1. Not without trusting church members to fulfill their ministries.
  • Mobilizing the Church for world mission.
    1. The elders are responsible to do missions, emphasize missions, and get the local church involved in world-missions so the church is participating with Christ in Christ’s great commission (Extrapolated from Bylaws IV.2.b).

These are the responsibilities to which the elders at The Church at Sunsites are held accountable by the congregation.

Deacons

The responsibilities of the deacons are to advise and assist the elders in any service that shall support and promote the ministry of the Word, new and existing ministries of the Church, and care for the members of the congregation by:

  • Administering a fund to assist the poor and needy and otherwise providing aid in times of crisis or distress.
    1. Unlike the elders, the deacons are responsible to maintain a benevolence fund to assist the poor and needy at their discretion. Such a discretionary fund does not require the approval of the whole church and is maintained through the tithes, offerings, and donations of the church members. Since deacons have qualified as deacons according to Scripture, they are trusted to use this benevolence discretionary fund to further the cause of Christ’s Gospel in our community.
  • The greeting and welcoming ministries of the Church.
    1. Deacons are responsible to make sure visitors, church members, and regular attendees feel welcome and at home in the church gathering.
  • Assisting in administering the ordinances of the Gospel.
    1. Deacons are responsible to help with baptisms and communion when called upon.
  • Assisting at fellowship gatherings of the Church.
    1. Deacons are responsible to serve at church fellowships.
  • Caring for and maintaining the Church properties.
    1. Deacons are responsible to keep up the church properties and be sure we honor the Lord with the property He has given us to steward.
  • Administering the business affairs of the Church that pertain to its material assets.
    1. Deacons serve as the biblical board of trustees, managing the church’s business affairs so the elders can focus on shepherding the congregation spiritually. Elders do not have this authority at The Church at Sunsites (Extrapolated from Bylaws IV.3.b).

These are the responsibilities to which the deacons at The Church at Sunsites are held accountable.

The call

Church members, your job is paramount. The future of the Church at Sunsites lies with her membership. We stand before our Lord together, striving to discern His will, and we walk side-by-side in Gospel vision, purpose, and mission.

Happy New Year, Fam!

Well, it is 2021! I haven’t seen you all sense last year. It’s not yet time for me to recap all that God has done in 2020. I’ll do that after our annual family meeting on January 14. For now, I simply want to write you a letter of encouragement before tomorrow, the first Sunday of 2021.

Over the previous two years, you have all come to be very dear to my heart. I would do anything for you, and I would do anything for our community. Within the last few months, people have started asking why we are here. What is the purpose and vision of The Church at Sunsites. This is a great place to be; many local congregation never get around to asking such existential questions. Christians content themselves with meeting together. If we ask why or what difference does it make, the answer is always silence. It’s time to start thinking about vision. It’s time to start thinking about who we are as The Church at Sunsites and why it matters for our community. That is a converastion we will have on January 14 at our annual family meeting. I will have to look at the protocols again in the bylaws, but I believe that those who cannot make it in person will be able to join via video conference.

I want to ask something of you in 2021. 2020 was a year marked with frustrations that many of us have not seen in our lifetimes. If Biden is revealed as president elect by the electoral college vote count on January 6th, there will be many questions and hardships to follow, as there will be if he is not. Every new season on earth comes with more questions and hardships, and the church is here for good in every season. Whatever vision we develop together, I know that The Church at Sunsites as a whole–not merely the elders or deacons–has an important role to play as we love and serve our community. We will continue to make decisions as to whether or not we will gather, what we will sacrifice for our Lord, and how we will prioritize our lives. I am convinced that the gathering of believers should be a top priority for believers because the gathering is the means by which we are all perfected according to God’s design–the means by which the whole world is renewed. We need one another. If you are unable to gather, we are live streaming the main gathering on Facebook.

Tomorrow, we begin 1 Corinthians. Paul answers the questions we all have. Who, what, where, why, and how is the church? What is the point? Why gather? I hope to see you all there together, and I hope we are all preparing for the annual family meeting on January 14–perhaps the post important family meeting we will have while I serve you as pastor.

As we think about who we are, the purpose and mission and vision of The Church at Sunsites, consider these truths in 2021:

  • Jesus instructed us to go to others like He came to us,
  • Every Christian is a priest in Christ’s kingdom,
  • Church membership is the third office of the church and not merely a status, and
  • Every local church is to be a gospel mission to its community.

Thank you for being my family. Let’s shake this valley and the world in 2021. See you in the gathering.

–Andrew

January 2021 Announcements

Happy New Year, church family! I want to thank you for another great year at TCATS. 2020 presented some interesting challenges and hardships, but we got to experience God’s continuing sanctification. This year, God taught me about patient endurance, unconditional love and forgiveness, and humbled me again–as is His way. In 2020, I worked on brevity and on explaining lofty ideas in plain language. In 2021, I will learn how to better interact with ideas other than my own. I’ve always been a sort-of harsh debater, enough to mostly distance myself from participating in debates. These days I find myself wanting to be more charitable and understanding. Please pray for me as I discipline my body and mind more faithfully this year. I would love to hear about your New Year’s resolutions. –Andrew

Special Announcements

If you missed our advent series, watch it here!

We will begin 1 Corinthians on January 3. Remember to pick up your 1 Corinthians journal and send us any questions you have as you read through 1 Corinthians so we can plan on answering those as we walk through the epistle together.

Annual Business Meeting (uh, I mean family meeting)- Thursday, January 14 at 6:30pm
The purpose of this meeting shall be to:

  1. Select officers for the upcoming year,
  2. Approve the operating budget for the upcoming year,
  3. Reaffirmation of two elders (Andrew and Albert) and one deacon (Steve),
  4. Cast vision for 2021, and
  5. Other business if needed.

I (Andrew) will be writing three pieces before our annual meeting. One considering the importance of elder reaffirmation, another considering the importance of developing and casting vision as a church family, and one concerning the deacons’ and elders’ role related to the church budget according to Scripture. Be on the look out for these three important considerations as we prepare ourselves to discern the will of God for TCATS in 2021.

Please see the church calendar for other scheduled events this month.

Resources

Interested in earning a teaching certificate starting this spring? We are starting seminary classes through Gateway Seminary; Please contact us for details and don’t forget to enroll soon.

Download and read Pastor Andrew’s latest school paper by clicking here.

Current Opportunities:

We want you to serve according to your calling. Come, be a part of The Church at Sunsites. We commit to train you and see you fulfill the ministry God has called you to according to His will.

Please donate online by clicking here.

If you do not give online, please remember to mail in your first-fruits or place your offering in the offering box when you are at the church building. We do not take up an offering during any worship gathering.

Remember to Subscribe to this blog and Contact us with any questions!

DECEMBER COVID-19 UPDATE

How do we best serve the glory of God, the good of our congregation, and the good of the community? How does God lead us in His word? Those are the questions we ask when we consider our response to everything. We consider physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Our highest priority is God’s glory and the sanctification of the saints. We are blessed to live in a state in which the economy is not being closed down again and in which churches are not being held to standards other than small businesses or other community organizations. Simply want to provide a few notes:

  • Vaccines are now being distributed for healthcare workers and will be distributed for certain groups in phases in the weeks and months to come.
  • Please continue to practice safe sanitation by washing your hands often and utilizing the hand-sanitizer we provide near the entrances of the church building.
  • Don’t be afraid to wear a mask at gathering times. We do not require masks, but we want you to feel comfortable wearing yours if you desire. Masks are available if you do not have one.
  • Try not to neglect the gathering if you don’t feel you have to. If you are in quarantine or self-isolating, remember to join us via Facebook live beginning again this Sunday.
  • Remember to call your elders/deacons if you need anything. We are here to serve our church and community through every circumstance.
  • Each person is responsible for staying informed and keeping the state and county recommendations according to his or her own discernment.
  • If you are sick or have tested positive for COVID-19, please remain home for the appropriate amount of time.

Remain prayerful, devoted to one another, and committed to Christ and His bride. Amen.

Download and Read Pastor Andrew’s Latest Academic Paper

Hey church family. On Sunday, I had the privilege of sharing the main idea of my latest paper as I continue to pursue my PhD. I want to thank you for your support. In this paper, I present an interpretation of Genesis 3:14-15 and apply it to a biblical theology of reprobation. Please continue to pray for me as I continue my education, mainly that I will continue to become a better servant to the local church and community by increasing my expertise. I love you all, and I can’t stress enough how much I need you and am indebted to you in all things.
-Andrew

Click below to download or view my paper: “Children of the Serpent Mother.”

From Google Drive: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vOezy6BW96KjCehvAmzGAdfv0HAN1jhQ/view?usp=sharing

From Acedemia.edu: https://mbts.academia.edu/AndrewCannon

Heal the Land: Getting Back to Church

I was talking to a fellow the other day right here in the valley. He claimed that he did not need the church; his church was nature. He defined his spirituality based on the good things he did for others. Sometime after our conversation, the same man complained about always doing things for others but never having anyone doing anything for him or wanting him around just because they loved him. “I’m only focussing on me,” he said, “I’m done breaking my back for other people who don’t care.”

Have you ever thought about why we invest our time and money into the local church? For many people, church is merely a meeting they attend. They have gotten into the habit of paying their tithes, sitting in the church meeting, singing a song, having fellowship with others, and then going home.

I remember being asked once, “If your local church was suddenly gone, would people notice? Is your community a better place because of your Gospel work?” The question is daunting. It haunted me for a long time. We say that we meet to glorify Christ. Great! We meet to make better disciples of one another. Awesome!! But, what impact do we really have?

As the result of a happy accident (I know, there are no accidents), I found myself in John 20:19-29:

19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “bPeace be with you.”

20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

23 “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called aDidymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

27 Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

In context, Jesus is talking to all of His disciples, not only the Apostles. Look at verse 21. Jesus sends all of His disciples just as the Father sent Him. Jesus even went as far as to give us responsibility to announce the forgiveness of sins to people. Earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus claimed to have come to save the whole world, not condemn it (John 3:17; speaking about common, effectual grace). His ministry was marked by (1) a proclamation of the Gospel, (2) teaching the whole counsel of Scripture, and (3) forgiveness of sins and healing. Then He instructs us to go to the world just as He came to us.

This year, I have been heavily convicted to fight more fiercely for my church family and community. I have rediscovered a heart for ministry that I haven’t known for a long time. This Christmas, I remember the condescension of Jesus Christ. He came to a broken, hurting world. He did not come to condemn it but to save it. I look around at my community and see:

  • Broken families,
  • Heartache,
  • Self-righteousness,
  • Addiction,
  • Abuse,
  • Insincerity,
  • Complaining,
  • Division,
  • Anxiety,
  • Bickering,
  • Non-forgiveness,
  • and so on…

Then, I realize Jesus wants to heal all that. His vision is to effectively heal the land through the local church. The world has failed to heal the land for so long. I recognize more and more that the world needs to church. In large part, the church has done so well secluding itself that it has lost its relevance in the world according to Christ’s vision. Some even seem like they are striving to do exactly the opposite thing that Jesus is. The Gospel is a very real and healing force. Imagine for a moment, that you started seeing:

  • Reconciliation between estranged spouses,
  • Comfort coming to the broken-hearted,
  • People humbling themselves and becoming servants,
  • People claiming real victory over their addictions,
  • An end to abuse,
  • People being sincerely interested in others,
  • People going around complimenting others rather than complaining about everything,
  • Enemies becoming friends,
  • Glad-heartedness and celebration,
  • Outdoing one another in love,
  • True forgiveness,
  • and so on…

When a church body is being the church, the Gospel message accomplishes real results. The prophets even prophesied that from the moment of Christ’s incarnation there would be no end to the increase of His government–which would bring peace and justice to the world (Isaiah 9:6-7). In large part, the church has lost its heavenly vision. Such results are worth investing our time and money. They are worth our dedication. Such great things really result from the preaching and application of the Gospel in local church ministry. My father-in-law once said, “The church is here for the community, not the community for the church.” He wasn’t wrong.

I dedicate my time not only to preach the Gospel but to apply the Gospel in ministry. I want to fight for your families. I want to fight for peace in the valley. I want to fight for unity and reconciliation. I want to fight for spouses to be reunited in Christ. I want to fight for you unconditionally. But, I am no savior…

I remember watching a TV show recently in which a man was made more powerful by having people like himself in close proximity. He mistakenly thought they needed him. In reality, he needed them. In the same way, I desperately need my local church family. I can’t do anything with out you. We cannot fight for our community in a real way without being devoted to the fellowship of believers. You never thought it could be said, “Go to church, save the world,” but that is precisely how it works. That is the way Jesus has chosen to do things. The gentleman I mentioned at the outset tried to be good but was ultimately unable. He had no support system and no vision apart from his own glory. As we approach the end of the year, I want to invite you to think about the local church and your involvement therein. Consider The Church at Sunsites. If you do not have a relationship with Christ, please contact us. If you have not been to church in awhile, please plan your visit today. If you need to recommit your life to Christ and His vision for the church, please do so. We will see you soon.

Start your Gospel journey. In this new podcast, Ken and I apply the Gospel to real life with an emphasis on the healing vision Christ presented us with. Subscribe on your favorite podcasting app. Let’s impact this world together.

A couple church members asked if we would do a blog series about the doctrines of grace. Here it is! How does our understanding of limited atonement inform our lives, ministries, and societies? If you use a podcasting app, be sure to subscribe to Blacktop Pulpit by The Church at Sunsites. Visit thechurchatsunsites.com to donate and help us continue our Gospel work.
  1. Limited Atonement
  2. Blacktop Pulpit: Unconditional Election
  3. Blacktop Pulpit: Total Depravity
  4. Blacktop Pulpit: The Five Solas

Don’t forget about our Christmas Eve worship gathering. We will have several songs and I will speak more about the vision Christ is accomplishing through His incarnation.

Please consider making a special Christmas donation.

On January 3rd, we will begin walking through 1 Corinthians, a book in which God restored His vision for the local church at Corinth.