Is it biblical for a pastor to try to take members from another local church?

This question was asked by one of our church members, and I wanted to answer it as clearly and succinctly as possible. Before you read Scripture’s answer to this question, I have to make known my own burdened and broken heart. My heart is overwhelmed with love, and I desire only the good of all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have intentionally made this particular answer very generic and addressed a few different possible scenarios. I have intentionally not addressed any specific circumstance or particular person; Again, this answer is purposefully generic. Any specific situation or particular person you wish to think about must be done case-by-case according to the wisdom of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This generic answer helps us to understand the importance of church membership, participation with the fellowship of believers, devotion, and the selflessness necessary for Christian living—especially among those who are elders or pastors of any local church. These are all things that I have grown to understand more over the course of the last month or so. Throughout my ministry, I have experienced deep conviction on these points. I approach this question as a person who knows where I came from and what I have struggled against over the years, as an elder called by grace and by the Holy Spirit, and as a pastor who is still broken and being sanctified.

From my very first ministry, I have had people visit the local church I was pastoring from different churches. They were thinking about leaving their current churches because of problems they were experiencing. Because I understood church membership, I counseled them to remain at their current church. Still, when someone comes from a different local church desiring to leave their local church and become part of the one I get to pastor, I ask about their motivations and talk with their current pastor before I even consider the possibility of recommending them for church membership. Church membership is too important a thing to take lightly. Sheep swapping, it seems to me, is little good for the local church because it produces immature believers and keeps us from reaching the unchurched. Many churches brag about their growth when all they are doing is gaining people who already claim to be Christians and who are not devoted to the brothers and sisters where they were previously. This is the degradation of the Great Commission; Instead of reaching those who are on the highway to Hell, churches are trying to convert people from other local churches. Little work is being done for the Gospel, and Christians are tossed to and fro by the winds of perpetuated shallow Christianity. I want to answer this question in three parts. 1) We encourage commitment, not betrayal. 2) We lead churches to reach the unreached, not swap sheep. 3) Pastoral qualifications require us to love and bear with others, encouraging every Christian to do the same. After giving a biblical answer, I will share my own heart.

  1. We encourage commitment, not betrayal.

After Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, the new Jewish believers asked Peter how they should respond to the Gospel? Peter answered:

Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself (Acts 2:38-39).

This group formed the first local church. The marks of the local church were basic. Those who received the Spirit devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship of fellow believers, the breaking of bread (communion), and the prayers through the week and from week to week (Acts 2:42). The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is evidenced by a believer’s devotion to the fellowship of believers. Later in the First Century, John the apostle wrote concerning the evidence of salvation and eternal life. He wrote so that we may know we have eternal life (1 John 5:13). John warned about antichrists in the world. He claimed that the antichrists were revealed because they went out from the fellowship of believers and tried to turn those committed to the fellowship of believers away; “If they had been of us (Christians),” he wrote, “they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). John wrote this because the fruit of the Spirit includes devotion to the fellowship according to the descriptive text in Acts 2. Paul listed the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-26—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, not boastful, not challenging one another, and not envying one another. Those who have the Holy Spirit love the brethren, have peace with the brethren, are faithful to the brethren (the fellowship of believers), and don’t envy or challenge the brethren. Further, the Holy Spirit produces His love in those who know Christ and have His Holy Spirit. Love is patient, kind, not jealous, not braggadocio, not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

If anyone is a pastor or elder chosen by the Holy Spirit, he encourages Christians to bear the fruit of the Spirit and to sincerely love others—necessarily meaning he encourages devotion to their fellowship, faithfulness, unconditional forgiveness, and the bearing, believing, and hoping of all things. After all, that’s what it means to be part of a family. Here, we notice that any person who is trying to persuade church people to leave their church families is trying to persuade them to bear fruit contrary to the fruit of the Spirit. That person leads us away from Christ and into sin. The local church fellowship is precious in the Lord’s sight, and He is serious about desiring we be devoted to one another—even bearing all things for His own glory and the exaltation of Jesus Christ. Pastors, elders called by the Holy Spirit, are to guard the flock of God from unfaithfulness, not entice them to be unfaithful (Cf. Acts 20:28).

2) We lead churches to reach the unreached, not swap sheep.

By encouraging the swapping of sheep, we only encourage divisions and factions among the people of God—the deeds of the flesh according to the apostle, Paul (Cf. Galatians 5:19-21). Paul wrote that those who encourage such things will not inherit the kingdom of Heaven. Further, Paul instructed Titus to instruct Christians to avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, strife, and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless; He instructed the church to reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self condemned (Titus 3:9-11). Any person, then, encouraging the swapping of sheep, competing with the local church in order to gain congregants for him or herself, and being factious is explicitly to be rejected because that person is self-condemned according to Scripture. So, what is the mission of the true church? We do church to grow in our own spiritual maturity and service to one another (Cf. Ephesians 4:11-12) and to reach the unreached in our community (Cf. Matthew 28:19-20). We are not concerned about competing with other local churches. We are concerned about God’s glory, the good of the saints, and sharing the Gospel so as to call the world to repentance and invite others into Christ’s everlasting kingdom—that they may come into the eternal life that is only found in Jesus Christ by grace through faith.

3) Pastoral qualifications require us to love and bear with others, and to encourage others to do the same.

When we think about those pastors called to be elders and overseers by the Holy Spirit, we consider the character qualifications listed in Scripture—primarily 1 Timothy 3:1-7:

  • One who aspires to be an overseer, elder, must be above reproach,
  • a one-woman type of man,
  • temperate,
  • prudent,
  • respectable,
  • hospitable,
  • able to teach,
  • not addicted to wine,
  • not pugnacious (looking for a fight), but gentle,
  • peaceable,
  • free from the love of money,
  • a good manager of his own household,
  • not a baby Christian, but mature in the faith so that he does not become conceited and fall into condemnation, and
  • reputable among those outside the church.

Love of money refers to sordid gain—the desire to gain for one’s self at others’ expense. The person who seeks to mine other churches to build a congregation for himself is not prudent, respectable, peaceable, or hospitable; He is interested in his own gain and pugnacious. Understand, these characteristics show because a person has bad roots as we saw in numbers 1 and 2 above. The roots of Christ and the Holy Spirit’s call on one’s life to be a pastor (elder or overseer) produces character consistent with repentance and the fruit of the Spirit. A pastor or elder of the church who truly and really loves his congregation will bear with her no matter her faults; That, after all, is the simple love and faithfulness produced in every Christian. If we are unfaithful to the body of Christ, how can we possibly build a new congregation that will somehow honor Him? It is impossible. So, the person trying to steal sheep is not qualified to serve as a pastor (elder or overseer) according to the character God produces in His people—especially those He desires to be overseers in His church.

So, it is not only unbiblical to try to take members from another local church; It is contrary to every instruction we receive and disqualifies us from serving as pastors by the Holy Spirit. If we do such a thing, we prove to be false-teachers and lead others to produce fruit contrary to the fruit of the Spirit.

Now, knowing how Scripture counsels us in a very generic way concerning the question at hand, I want to get a little personal. I have been frustrated with local churches before. I have been tempted to start my own church out of spite because of my experiences. God kept me from that sin. Not every church is healthy, but our experiences are not our masters—Jesus alone is. He sanctifies us by calling us to live in community with believers of every maturity level. God has kept me faithful to His church. My heart breaks in a special way for those who have been burned by the clubs or individuals who refer to themselves as “Christian” but only ever condemn others. I want to ask and answer three questions for us.

How do I respond to the person trying to steal me from my church family?

The answer to this question depends on the more specific context of the encounter. (1) If another pastor from an established church in the area is trying to steal sheep, know that he is only interested in the size of his own audience and not in your good. We should be skeptical of those who use flattery by either tickling our ears or making promises to build their own congregations. (2) If a pastor bullies people into coming to the local church he pastors or constantly talks about how every other pastor or church is wrong about everything in order to entice people to attend, he is a factious and pugnacious man interested in his own ministry rather than Christ’s. (3) If someone has recently forsaken a local church and is trying to steal members from the local church he or she left, we simply have to wonder why he left in the first place. If that person loved the congregation and wanted to minister to that congregation, he or she would have remained devoted to that congregation in the first place. This person may be hurt but likely wants the devotion of others without him or herself being devoted; He or she wants others’ respect without having to really love them or be vulnerable. This is a particularly painful realization for me because I have loved many people who have abandoned me for the sake of building their own kingdoms—who left me when I needed them most. In my flesh, I have been tempted to do the same. I almost did almost 3 years ago, and that’s why I can talk about it now. We do not respond with disdain or complaining or more divisiveness. We simply respond by praying for them but seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness—trusting God to produce the fruit of the Spirit in us: faithfulness, love, peace, and so on.

If a person has recently left a church, we appeal to that person as a brother or sister. We love that person. We desire that person’s reconciliation with whomever he has a problem. We desire that person’s restoration and spiritual maturity. People do things they don’t mean when they have been hurt. If we have caused pain, we apologize. We make sure we let the person know that we desire him or her to be part of the fellowship. If these sorts desire us to be around, they simply need come join us and fellowship with us again. We do not take into account any wrong suffered because we strive to love as Christ loves us.

When should I leave my church?

This being said, there are times when leaving one’s church family is right. It has nothing to do with whether or not our sensibilities were hurt or our preferences met; Those are trivial matters. It has nothing to do with hardships, gains, or losses; Those are matters of self-interest. If a local church is not striving to honor God or preaches and teaches a false Gospel or fails to preach and teach the whole counsel of God and that is growing in love and grace, that church is not actually a church. Recall Acts 2; Those who received the Spirit devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship of fellow believers, the breaking of bread (communion), and the prayers through the week and from week to week. A church without these basic 4 marks is not a church; It is a social club full of unregenerate members who know not the Holy Spirit, and they refer to themselves as a church. So we don’t ask about our preferences, we ask about God’s. Is there both sound doctrine and biblical love? Is there devotion to the things of God and the good of the body? Do we receive the means of grace? Is this a house of prayer? Where the congregation fails, is it repentant?

Ultimately, if you choose to leave a church, understand that you are breaking fellowship unless your move is affirmed by your local church for a purpose according to the Holy Spirit’s calling (or you are moving to a new geographical area, which a church usually affirms by letter). It is a serious matter because the Lord has made the elders (pastors) of that church overseers of your soul. He has given the congregation for our good and sanctification through fellowship. Be sure it is what God wants, not what people want—not even you. Christ is king, here, not us. If it is what God wants from you, go.

How should I plant a church?

Planting a church is no small matter. If you are put out with churches and want to plant your own church because it will be better, do not plant a church. I know about this because I have been to this dark place. I almost planted a church in sin rather than in Christ. Your church plant will not be better than what you leave because people are still people, sinners are still sinners, and the wretchedness of the human heart is still evident. Loving people means bearing with them despite their sin and ours. When people plant churches out of spite, those churches are not based on Scripture, or any form of legitimate Christianity, but on the preferences and reactions of the people planting those churches. If you have a godly desire to plant a church, find a healthy local church. Get involved there. Let the elders know that you desire to plant a church. They will help you plan, partner with you, commission you, and send you out knowing that you have qualified as an overseer in God’s church by the Holy Spirit. A healthy church will want you to succeed. A healthy church will be passionate about church planting in areas with less Gospel influence rather than competing against other local churches.

Brothers and sisters, I hope you are well. I am praying for you daily, and I cannot wait to see you again as we devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, communion, and prayer. Please pray for all the hurt and frustrated in our community. May The Church at Sunsites be a place of grace and healing through our love and devotion to one another–as we seek after forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration.

What is Faith?

During our Wednesday evening Bible study, we realized that Jesus talked much about faith. Faith is a big deal, and Jesus gets serious about it. But, Matthew never really defines exactly what faith is. The book of Romans, however, presents us with a more holistic view of the Christian faith. It is an umbrella commentary on the Old Testament, observing Christ in light of the Old Testament, a proclamation of the Gospel, and a brief application of that Gospel to life. The book of Romans presents the basic doctrines of true Christianity, though it is not exhaustive in itself. Romans reveals to us what true Christian actions and attitudes are like and from where they come. If any tradition is contrary to the book of Romans, specifically, it probably cannot be considered as genuine Christianity. As we consider faith, I want to ask: What does Scripture teach? How does this compare to current major worldviews? How does this truth affect my heart and draw me to loving action? If at any time, you have questions about other worldviews, please feel free to ask. The elders of the church are responsible to guard the church doctrinally.

There are a few definitions of faith in the world today ranging from simple trust to obsequious belief (fawning belief in something without evidence). The word faith is often used in opposition to the word science. Belief systems are referred to as faiths, as are ritual systems within religion. Faith seems to be a very basic component of the human experience, but rarely do we take the time to think about what it actually means for us to have faith. What is faith, really? Where does our faith come from? How does it affect our hearts? What sort of loving action does it draw us to?

Romans 1:13-17

Now I want you to know, brothers, that I often planned to come to you (but was prevented until now) in order that I might have a fruitful ministry among you, just as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am obligated both to Greeks and barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish. So I am eager to preach the good news to you also who are in Rome.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.

Faith in the Bible

In this text, Paul reveals that faith drives all of life. Whatever a person’s faith is in, it draws him or her to live a certain way, to think a certain way, and to view the world in a certain way. We all live by the faith that we have, and those who are righteous, according to Paul, will live by true faith. What is this true faith that Paul describes? We receive some clues in the preceding verses of Chapter 1. In verse 5, Paul describes obedience as being of faith. Obedience is not described as of works or merit or ritual or anything else. It is described as being of faith. So, faith brings about obedience. That is one thing it does, but what is it? In verse 6, Paul states that this obedience of faith is glorifying to Christ, not people, among all people including those who are called by Jesus Christ. Faith is not the glorification of self and cannot, then, be a work of self. However faith is produced, whatever faith is, it cannot be said that any one person will have worked for it or produced it. In fact, Paul also clarifies that there are people who are called by Christ and people who are not and that, through true faith, Christ will receive all glory among both groups. When we get to verse 13, Paul describes that he wanted to go to Rome but was prevented for a time in order that he might have a fruitful ministry among the Romans. This reveals a certain dependence on someone else for all things. In this case, Paul was depending on the leadership of the Holy Spirit. In verse 17, Paul states that the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.

In this verse, Paul is quoting and commenting on an Old Testament passage, Habakkuk 2:4:

Look, his ego is inflated;

he is without integrity.

But the righteous one will live by his faith.

In the context of Habakkuk 2:4, the prophet was questioning why God would allow wicked people to overcome the righteous. He recognized that God promoted this enemy to come against Israel because of Israel’s sin. God answers Habakkuk. His, the Chaldean enemy, ego is inflated. He seeks glory for himself. He is seeking to leave his mark on the world. He is trying to be his own righteousness. In contrast to this, those who are truly righteous will live by faith. To live by faith is the opposite of living according to or for my ego. God had to correct Habakkuk. Righteousness is not the success of a people given because of their own merit. God can’t be bought. The righteous live by faith, complete dependence on God because to try and earn my own success or buy God with a prayer, a sacrifice, an offering, or with good deeds serves the ego. That is the very definition of unrighteousness in Habakkuk and in Romans.

Paul is using an old testament understanding of what faith is. If we define faith only in the first chapter of Romans, we get this: True faith is a gift from God (not a work of self) that causes God’s people to depend fully on God and reveals the righteousness of God (not people) for the purpose of our humility and God’s glory, bringing about obedience in those who are given faith.

Romans, though, is not the only book that defines faith. We read the same definition no matter where we turn to in scripture:

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’

Then He called a child to Him and had him stand among them. ‘I assure you,’ He said, ‘unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:1-3; italics added for emphasis).

“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast (We are not saved by faith, but by grace through faith). For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them (faith, which is a gift to those who are a new creation in Christ, draws us to good works or obedience)” (Ephesians 2:8-10, parentheses mine, italics added for emphasis).

“Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh), and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near…

Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For our ancestors won God’s approval by it (not by works or merit, but by the blood of Christ because Christ has opened the door).

By faith we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts (he was considered righteous by faith, not by works, and that is why God accepted his offering), and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith.

By faith Enoch was taken away so he did not experience death, and he was not to be found because God took him away. For prior to his removal he was approved, since he had pleased God (he was approved because of faith, not works). Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him (who seek Him, not their own glory or what they might gain from claiming a relationship with God)” (Hebrews 10:18-34, 11:1-6, parentheses mine, italics added for emphasis).

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him?

If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself (faith precedes works and brings about good works or obedience)” (James 2:14-17, parentheses mine, italics added for emphasis).

“…know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. And we have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no human being will be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

While there are many more places in Scripture to find faith described in some manner, these references begin to help us realize what true, Godly faith is. It is precisely what we have discovered in Romans 1. True faith is a gift from God (not a work of self) that causes God’s people to depend fully on God and reveals the righteousness of God (not people) for the purpose of our humility and God’s glory, bringing about obedience in those who are given faith.

If the Christian life is a tree, then, Jesus is the root. Faith is the trunk. The branches are obedience which produce the fruit of the Spirit.

Faith in the world

In this world, in all of its brokenness, there are quite a few worldviews (including religious belief systems) in which faith is seen as something different. I want to consider some definitions of faith that are different from the biblical definition. I have italicized the points that make the definition contrary to what we actually see in Scripture.

The Roman Catholic definition of faith, here adapted from the Catechism available through the Vatican, combines works with grace instead of making God’s grace alone the determining factor:

“Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him… Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act… Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift… To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; it must be “working through charity,” abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.

Many protestant Christians will describe faith similarly, claiming that we must work to remain in God’s grace after becoming a Christian. They equate being a member of a church (of the Church) with being saved.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have not really clearly defined what they think faith is, only what they think faith accomplishes. Based on their website, they believe that faith and works are essentially connected and that a person’s faith is expressed by his or her works. The goal of faith for the Jehovah’s witness can be summarized thusly:

The more you learn about God, the closer you will feel to him and the happier you will be.

According to their dictionary, Mormons have defined faith in this way:

“Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true and must be centered in Jesus Christ in order to produce salvationstrong faith is developed by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ; in other words, faith comes by righteousness… Faith is a principle of action and of power…”

According to what is written in the Quran, Muslims who abide by the Quran believe that faith is belief in God’s salvation, which is given only by His act of mercy. They believe that all of our free decisions were recorded even before creation, this includes the decision to submit to God or not. Those who submit to God are considered to be righteous. God’s choosing is based on the ‘goodness’ of each one’s soul and the goodness of each one’s soul is determined by God’s foreknowledge of his or her submission to him.

Many protestant Christians will define faith in a Muslim way as well, saying that God’s election is based upon His foreknowledge of our surrendering to Him. We have to add words to Scripture in order to draw that conclusion and I am not willing to do that.

Hindus believe that the creator god is unknowable and unsearchable, but that this creator God has subject to him many demigods. If they have faith in a demigod, which is a representation of the creator god, worshipping that demigod, attains all his desired objects from that deity. Those who perform virtuous deeds are purified from all sin and freed from the illusion of duality so that they can worship the creator god with firm resolve. Those who practice vice are forced to be born again into the abode of suffering (this is the idea of karma).

In Buddhism, faith is a trust or belief in one’s self and in Dharma (the interconnectivity of all things).

The Dalai Lama stated this in comparison to the Bible’s teaching that Jesus must give light and that Jesus must be the one to save the world. It is so interesting that this figure of faith in the world today then stated that what Jesus said was like his belief that people must believe in the interconnectivity of the world, taking their rightful place in that interconnectivity. One teaches that salvation is the work of Christ on behalf of people. One teaches that a salvation of sorts is the work of people realizing their interconnectivity through meditation. These are two entirely different and incompatible worldviews.

The naturalist’s (including the atheist) definition of faith is the same as the Buddhists, only using different terms. Faith for the naturalist and many scientific atheists is trust in the human condition as people assume their logical place in the world (interconnectivity of all things) and one’s self.

To have a true belief, it must be coherent (non-contradictory with other beliefs) and it must be correspondent (represent external objective features of the cosmos). It was Carl Sagan who said, “The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or politics, but it is not a path to knowledge.”

In Romans, we find an idea that is uncomfortable for most people in every religious and irreligious context: As fallen people, we are always trying to change the natural order of things. The examples that Paul gives here in Romans 1-2 are exactly the kinds of things we have witnessed for many years:

  1. We have taken faith and tried to turn it into this thing that we can produce in ourselves either by believing the correct thing, doing good things, practicing the rituals of religion, or being righteous of our own willpower.
  2. In Romans 1:23, we read that people have exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
  3. In Romans 1:25, we read that people exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator.
  4. In Romans 1:26-27, we read that people exchanged natural sexual relations according to God’s created order for unnatural ones.
  5. In Romans 1:29-31, we read of other ways that people have tried to change the natural order of things.
  6. In Romans 1:32, we read of how people encouraged other people to also try to rearrange God’s order of all things even though He is the creator and they are not.
  7. In Romans 2:1, we even read that people have taken it upon themselves to be the righteous judge, even though God is the only right judge.

Most people, when they think about faith or try to define it, have done so in a way that is contrary to the natural order and contradictory. We want so badly to in some way earn what can only be given as a gift. This is heartbreaking because it means that most people who refer to themselves as “Christian” believe, and most ‘christian’ traditions teach, that they somehow have something to offer the sovereign Lord of the universe by their own merit, that faith somehow depends on them at least in part. Even if we say it is a gift, we often try and add clarification to make it seem as though we get to do something to gain our own faith. The only thing we accomplish is creating contradiction by trying to rearrange God’s design regarding this thing called faith. This is like an extreme form of works-based righteousness in which we have tried to become the creators of our own world rather than the cultivators of the order that God has formed. This is what most religion, including many traditions that refer to themselves as “Christian” try to accomplish. This is actually impossible to do. It is a philosophy that does not correspond to objective reality. When we say things like, “Faith is a gift, yet I must earn it by my merit,” we contradict ourselves and our beliefs are not coherent, meaning that at least some of them are false. This is what we do in religion when we want to say that God is sovereign but still want to make faith a work of our own. If God is sovereign, all glory belongs to Him. If all glory belongs to God, there is no merit of mine by which I can come to Christ or stay with Christ. God must save me and keep me. Faith, then, is complete dependence on God.

We self-identify by the things we do and the things we like. God identifies us according to who He is. He is the measure of all things. When I strive to be righteous on my own, I live as though I am the measure of all things. That’s blasphemy. What I am not saying is that people are incapable of moral good. We can do some good things. If I am relying on those good things as a measure of righteousness before God, I will always fall short. Thus, the ways of most religion will actually get us nowhere with God. They provide a corrupted sort of faith that isn’t real faith at all.

Many traditions reconfigure the tree of the Christian life. To them, the fruits of the Spirit are the root. Obedience is the trunk. The branches are faith, which then produce eternal life. It’s backwards from what we see in Scripture.

Faith in action

How does the idea of faith affect my heart and inform my action? If faith is not earned in any way or given according to merit, then my love for God and for people is not something that depends on me. This is a good thing! If faith is complete dependence on God, then God is the one drawing me to action; I’m not forced to, in my own strength or with my might, try to please God. God gives faith by grace alone. Faith causes us to depend on God as a child depends on his or her parents. Faith draws us into deeper obedience, not by my willpower but by God’s grace. Through faith, which is a gift that depends only on God, I am saved.

That is where this relationship starts for us: not my producing of faith or even my coming by my own willpower to faith, but the receiving of faith from God as a gift. Faith produces in us sincere love and works.

Is Jesus Currently Conquering the World?

As we have been studying the book of Revelation on Sunday afternoons at The Church at Sunsites, the text seems to indicate that Jesus is currently conquering the world, and the world is currently being renewed. The New Jerusalem is currently coming down (Cf. Revelation 3:12), beginning with Jesus’s incarnation and perpetually coming until His second appearance. The book of Revelation seems to indicate a different progression of end-times events than the view that has become popular in our day; It indicates that the world is coming more and more in conformity to Christ rather than getting worse and worse until some final judgment. I believe that Christians can stand united in Christ and in the Gospel despite differing eschatological positions. I want to, here, present some statistics to keep in mind as we continue to study the book of Revelation based on questions that have been asked during our study. These questions, which concern the nature of the millennial kingdom, come up weekly. My goal is not to tell anyone what to think concerning the millennial reign of Jesus Christ but, instead, to simply provide information as we wrestle with the nature of the kingdom and Christ’s conquering. First, I want to summarize the three views and their implications concerning the progression of world-history.

The Premillennial View: We live before Jesus’s millennial kingdom on the earth. This view implies that the world will get worse and worse until Jesus comes to reign at some point in the future. No one knows the day or the hour.

The Postmillennial View: We live after Jesus’s millennial kingdom was inaugurated on the earth, and we are currently in that millennial kingdom as Jesus builds His church. This view implies that the world will become more conformed to Christ and that Christ is currently renewing the world.

The Amillennial View: Jesus’s millennial kingdom was inaugurated in heaven at His death, resurrection, and ascension and is coming down to the earth as time progresses. This view implies that the world will become more conformed to Christ and that Christ is currently renewing the world.

Those who take the premillennial position usually teach that the world has been getting worse and will continue to get worse until Christ returns and judges while those who take the postmillennial and amillennial positions usually teach that the world has been getting better since either Christ’s ascension or the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. On Sunday’s, we are contenting ourselves to walk through The book of Revelation. These extrabiblical statistics can, though, help each one wrestle with the text and think about the veracity of the three millennial positions as we continue to work through the text. We are not claiming that the following statistics support any of the three views. As we think about our own positions concerning the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ, we must consider it in light of world events. In 2,000 years of history since Christ announced He was coming in His kingdom, has Christianity spread like Christ said it would? Has violence increased or decreased on the earth? Are pandemics more or less severe? Are life-expectancies increasing or decreasing? Let’s look at the numbers.

Violence, death, and wealth are key factors in seeing how our interpretations of Scripture correspond to reality. According to the premillennial worldview, violence and mortality rates will grow in their intensity until they peak during the 7-year tribulation. Jesus will finally judge the world and establish His millennial kingdom following the 7-year tribulation and do away with all violence. According to the amillennial and postmillennial views, Jesus has inaugurated His millennial kingdom and is currently conquering the earth, renewing it, and bringing peace to the world for the Father’s glory and good of His church.

Christianity has, over the last 2,000 years after starting in the midst of a small Jewish nation, become the most prominent religion in the world.

Since COVID-19 is fresh on our minds, it is important to point out that the mortality rate of the current pandemic is .9-2.2% depending on the source while the plagues of the First Millennium AD (e.g. the Plague of Justinian) and middle ages (e.g. the Black Death) had mortality rates reaching up to 90% in some years and regions. So, there has been an obvious and significant downward trend in viral mortality rates. Here is what we learn from these statistics:

  1. Violence in the world is decreasing.
  2. Fatality rate as a result of war has remained about the same since the Fifteenth Century AD.
  3. Mortality rates around the world are decreasing.
  4. Extreme poverty rate is decreasing.
  5. Jesus’s church is overtaking the world.
  6. Life expectancy is increasing.
  7. Literacy rate is increasing.

Everything Jesus promised is being worked out before our eyes. Why this present darkness within the church of Jesus Christ? Why the negative outlooks concerning the state of the world? Why this present depression? I realized this week that the generation that popularized the premillennial view saw the world wars in the 1900s. That was the worst thing they knew of and it seemed like the world was getting worse and worse even though, overall, violence and wars are decreasing. They did not have the ready information we have available today. Further, when we look around at the world, we tend to notice the negative more than anything else. News outlets and social media make prominent everything negative and unjust. If that is the only thing we see, to greater degrees and frequency, we are left to develop a false perception of the world and her trends. We fool ourselves into thinking that the world is getting worse and worse, and that affects our interpretation of Scripture. Keep in mind, I have still only looked at fairly recent history here. 

Concerning the interpretation of Scripture—we should strive as best we can not to interpret the text according to what we see in the world. Instead, we look through the biblical lens, strive to understand the authorial intent, and then see whether our interpretation corresponds to reality. That is how we can be confident that we believe the truth—our beliefs (i.e. interpretation of Scripture) are coherent and correspondent. As you wrestle with your views concerning the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ, remember that it’s about seeing what the Bible says. As we understand the Bible more and more, we keep in mind the trends on this earth. By paying attention, we can see the hand of God moving history. We can be optimistic about the future because God is in control.

Be sure to check out our current Revelation series:

October Announcements

Revival happens unexpectedly. We can’t schedule it. The Holy Spirit moves like the air. We feel His effects but we can not see where He is going or command His movement. This month, the Holy Spirit has moved in our midst. His moving brought humility and repentance in my own life. I hope you’ve experienced revival as I have. We have some cool stuff coming up for our congregation, and I am excited!!! -Andrew

Upcoming Special Events

Proclaim 2020 has been canceled.

We will finish walking through 1 Samuel on October 25!!

Advent Series– November 29-December 20 during the main gathering (11am on Sundays)

Christmas Eve Worship Service–December 24 @ 6:30pm.

We will begin 1 Corinthians on January 3.


Click here to download the latest section of sermons through 1 Samuel: David’s Flight
All 69 sermons covering every verse in 1 Samuel will be available next month.

Current Opportunities:

Audio Video Tech- to run sound and video on Sunday mornings.
Hispanic Missionary- someone to start a hispanic outreach ministry at TCATS for the growing hispanic population in the Sulfur Springs Valley.
Bible teachers- those interested in teaching the Bible or pastoring can be trained here.
Singers and Musicians.
If you have a particular calling, we will be sure you are equipped and put you to work for Christ’s kingdom.

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!

Children’s Church/Family Worship 09-06-2020

Text: 1 Samuel 26:1-25

Topic(s): Freedom From the Law

Questions to ask in children’s church:

  1. Read Romans 8:1-9 (NIV is best for children)
  2. Why do you think the Law brings death?
    1. It deals with outward works. To set our minds on outward works is to set our minds on the flesh.
  3. Why do you think people are unable to obey the Law of God?
    1. We are unrighteous by nature. As soon as we try to become righteous, we put ourselves in the place of God. Worldly religion is self-defeating.
  4. When we come to Christ, God changes our hearts and causes us to seek Him rather than seeking to be righteous by keeping rules. Jesus sets us free from the Law and gives us life.

Family worship after Sunday’s sermon:

  1. Read 1 Samuel 26:1-25 again.
  2. What evidence do you see that Saul was still a slave to the Law?
  3. What evidence do you see that David was free from the Law?
  4. If we are free from the Law, is the Law done away with?
    1. Read Romans 6:1-7

Note from the pastor to families:

From the moment we are born, we know what it means to be slaves to rules. We learn that certain actions, a cry or look, produce a certain outcome. From those moments, we are slaves to think of the world in terms of works. If we do this thing, put in a sufficient degree of effort, perform the correct tasks, sow a seed, pray well, or follow the correct religious rules, we will be successes, have better eternities, be healed, or become rich. That’s why so many people are so frustrated with human religion. They did the correct things and said the correct prayers and it didn’t work for them.

Scripture teaches us that Law-based religion does not work for anyone. In fact, it teaches that if we are focussed on obeying the Law in order to be good enough, we are dead people. When we experience new birth, Christ reorients our focus and gives us new hearts. We are focussed upon His person and work rather than our own. He liberates us from legalistic living and religion. The more we follow after Christ, the more obedient we become—not because of our striving, which is death, but because of Christ’s work, which is liberating. For freedom He sets His people free.

Teachers: Download the notes by clicking below:

September Announcements

This year has been an interesting one, but we have been able to further the ministry of the word and of our service to one another and our community. Last month, we established our deacon family ministry and have aligned ourselves more with biblical ministry. As we continue to be conformed to the likeness of Christ and His wonderful word, we will continue to grow in our biblical practice for the good of God’s elect.

Scripture is perspicuous about God’s providence. No one rises, falls, or even comes to faith without God’s determination. When we think about missions, we think about them with God’s providence in mind. Jesus alone builds His church (Cf. Matthew 16:18). God frustrates the plans of people and enlightens hearts according to His own will (Cf. 1 Samuel 2, Psalm 33). No one can come to the Father unless Christ chooses to reveal the Father to that particular person; Christ does this only according to the Father’s will (Cf. John 6:22ff).

We can strategize and work hard to do missions, and we should, but unless Christ builds His church it will not be built. We cannot build His church for Him. We understand missions to be our participation with Christ as Christ works, nothing more or less. So, we pray for God’s kingdom to come and will be done, not ours. We trust He is working all things together for His glory and the good of His elect. We serve others and tell them about Jesus for His glory alone, not to create an audience for ourselves as if we should ever build our kingdoms on Christ’s back. Soli Deo Gloria.

This month, we established our deacon family ministry. As a result our elders’ (pastoral) ministry is conformed more to God’s design. Ministry among the church body and through the church body to the community continues to strengthen. We encourage you all to serve according to your gifts and calling, and encourage those you serve to come on Sunday mornings with you as we sit at Jesus’s feet, learn from Him in all grace, and glean from God’s good word together.

Remember meal-share on Sunday afternoons following the main gathering. Join us Sundays at 12:30(ish) as we eat together and walk through Revelation.

Upcoming Special Events

Remember to RSVP if you would like to attend the missions forum on October 17, and don’t forget to order your T-Shirt before the deadline!


Click here for other Bible study resources for your spiritual growth.

Subscribe to “The Ninety-Five” on iTunes or by clicking here.

Current Opportunities:

Audio Video Tech- to run sound and video on Sunday mornings.
Hispanic Missionary- someone to start a hispanic outreach ministry at TCATS for the growing hispanic population in the Sulfur Springs Valley.
Bible teachers- those interested in teaching the Bible or pastoring can be trained here.
Singers and Musicians.
If you have a particular calling, we will be sure you are equipped and put you to work for Christ’s kingdom.

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!

Our Missions Vision in 2020

Children’s Church/Family Worship 08-23-2020

Text: 1 Samuel 25:39-44

Topic(s): Serving Others

Questions to ask in children’s church:

  1. Read John 13:1-17  (NIV is best for children)
  2. Jesus is King, yet He washed His disciples feet. Why do you think He washed their feet?
    1. He washed their feet to teach them about what it means to be a Christian.
      1. No matter how we sin, Jesus is always washing His disciples clean because they are covered by His righteousness.
  3. Why do you think Jesus instructed His disciples to wash one another’s feet?
    1. They are to perpetually forgive one another like Jesus perpetually forgives His disciples.
    2. This is possible, because we are not interested in gaining from one another but serving one another.
  4. If we build relationships based on what we can get from others, we will always be dissatisfied. If we live to serve our friends, siblings, and parents, we will have the joy of Jesus in life.

Family worship after Sunday’s sermon:

  1. Read 1 Samuel 25:39-44 again.
  2. Abigail was a strong woman, yet submitted herself to David as his wife. What do you think biblical submission is?
  3. How do you think the biblical idea of submission applies to every relationship we have?
  4. Read Ephesians 5:22-6:9 together and talk about the relationship dynamics according to Scripture.

Note from the pastor to families:

Jesus is King, yet he came to serve rather than be served (Cf. Matthew 20:28). Because we were created in His image, we were created to serve and not be served. God’s creation exists for Him, but He serves His creation by sustaining it. He serves His people by perpetually cleansing them from all sin (Cf. John 13:1—17). The world tells us only to associate with people who benefit us. We date and marry according to our own preferences and according to what pleases us. That is a philosophically selfish position. We wonder why we are so dissatisfied in our relationships on this earth; We have made them all about us rather than about God’s design and about serving others unconditionally. So, our relationships in response to God’s cleansing power are service-oriented, not preference or pleasure oriented. That is why the true Christian’s relationships are so much more satisfying than the relationships of the world—whether we are talking about marriage, friendship, or something like the relationships between an employee and his boss or a businesswoman and her clients. We bear the fruit of Christ’s cleansing power over our sin when we ask, “What can I do for you,” instead of “What can I get from you.”

Teachers: Download the notes by clicking below:

Children’s Church/Family Worship 08-16-2020

Text: 1 Samuel 25:18-38

Topic(s): God is Our Shepherd

Questions to ask in children’s church:

  1. Read 1 Samuel 2:8-9 (NIV is best for children)
    1. To whom does the whole world belong?
    2. Who owns the pillars of the earth, the power sustaining the earth?
      1. God does. He keeps all things moving and existing.
    3. Who keeps people moving and existing?
      1. God does.
      2. If we are God’s people, He even safeguards our steps like a parent who keeps her child from doing something he may not recover from.
  2. In this life, you will make mistakes and take missteps. If we are God’s people, He safeguards us from making mistakes and taking missteps that don’t work out for our good.

Family worship after Sunday’s sermon:

  1. Read 1 Samuel 25:18-38 again.
  2. Why do you think David praised God for using Abigail to stop him from accomplishing his plan?
  3. How did Abigail stop the injustice David was about to commit, and was it a godly way to prevent injustice?
  4. How do you think we can speak against the injustices of our day in a way that honors God?

Note from the pastor to families:

God is sovereign. His providence, working all things together, is a key theme through 1 Samuel. Like a shepherd watches over his flock, guiding sheep away from the danger of which they are never aware, so He guides His people. Like the parent who keeps her toddler from launching himself over the back of the couch even when he perceives no danger, so God keeps His people from making mistakes and taking missteps that do them no good. God is sovereign over our sin. Before we come to faith in Christ, He hands us over to sin through His Law so we recognize our depravity and wretchedness. He reveals Himself as the only righteous and holy one and calls us to repent and turn to Christ for forgiveness (Cf. Romans 11:32). After we have experienced conversion, God hands us over to some sin in order to keep us from exalting ourselves (Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). More are the sins from which He keeps us (Cf. 1 Samuel 2:8-9) because He is making His people perfect and complete. You might often hear a preacher or teacher command you to become perfect and righteous by keeping yourself from sin. You cannot do that by your own might or muster. God is the sovereign sustainer of His world, not us. Our sanctification is God’s work. May we participate with Him as we are sanctified. When we sin, may we recognize God’s hand in it, repent, and continue to exalt Christ alone.

Teachers: Download the notes by clicking below:

Children’s Church/Family Worship 08-09-2020

Text: 1 Samuel 25:2-17

Topic(s): Sharing

Questions to ask in children’s church:

  1. Read Genesis 1:26; 2:5, 15, 18 (NIV is the best translation for children).
    1. For what purpose, or function, did God make people?
      1. God made people to take care of the earth.
      2. God owns the earth and people. We are simply here to take care of God’s things.
  2. Read 1 Samuel 25:2-17.
    1. Why didn’t Nabal want to share his sheep with David?
      1. Nabal didn’t want to share because he thought the sheep were his instead of God’s.
    2. Why do you think we share things with other people and give to people in need?
      1. It’s not actually our stuff. It’s God’s, and we are here to steward it instead of own it.
  3. It’s important for us to share everything we have because God is king and everything belongs to Him.

Family worship after Sunday’s sermon:

  1. Read 1 Samuel 25:2-17 again.
  2. Why do Nabal’s servants refer to him as a worthless man?
  3. What does our hospitality and generosity reveal about who God is?
  4. If we feel entitled to anything, what do we insinuate about the god we worship?

Note from the pastor to families:

In America, we have been conditioned to earn money, property, and time for ourselves. We have come to see ourselves as entitled gods. When we peer into the order of creation in Genesis 1-2, we see that God has made us stewards and not owners of His creation. Entitlement and greed are two of the deepest idolatries the human race has ever committed. When we recognize Christ as Lord, we become more generous and hospitable stewards of those things He has entrusted to us—jobs, homes, technology, intelligence, vehicles, money, and everything else we have been entrusted to steward. We experience more joy because everything we steward we steward for God’s glory rather than to exalt ourselves—He is good and provided those things for our enjoyment and good. If we do not recognize Christ as Lord, we feel entitled—jobs, homes, technology, intelligence, vehicles, money, and everything else we think we own become the means of our satisfaction or happiness. When we don’t accomplish our goals or get what we think we deserve, we become cynics and joy alludes us because we have not recognized our proper function on this earth. God, Himself, is our rest, not our stuff.

Teachers: Download the notes by clicking below:

August Announcements

We are, more or less, back to normalcy. We encourage you to think about plugging back into the gathering of believers. As more and more people get back into the church gathering, we encourage safe practices. Wear masks if you feel you need to. Air hug, and remain six feet apart. We are providing two seating options during the main services; You can participate live in the auditorium or enjoy the broadcast in the fellowship hall–where we are now having children’s church for those children who are not sitting with their families during the worship time. If you choose not to honor the physical distancing recommendations, please respect those who are. We do have hand-sanitizer and masks available for those who need them.

In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul asks the Corinthian church to prove their love by giving financially for the purpose of relieving the effects of the famine in Jerusalem. Paul spent about 10 years soliciting donations for this cause; It was his personal missions project. He saw a need and made that need known.

As we continue our year of missions, we want to encourage our church members to pay attention to the needs of our community. When you see a practical need, report that need to our deacons. Beginning next month, we will have regular missions projects in our own community. These missions projects will depend on the needs you recognize and make known.

This month, we started having children’s church during the main gathering and started providing family worship material that coincides with Sunday’s sermon. Parents always know what their children are learning and are empowered to lead their children in Christ as their children’s primary disciplers.

Remember meal-share on Sunday afternoons following the main gathering. Join us Sundays at 12:30(ish) as we eat together and walk through Revelation.

Upcoming Special Events


Click here for other Bible study resources for your spiritual growth.

Subscribe to “The Ninety-Five” on iTunes or by clicking here.

Click here to download or listen to the audio for the Book of Revelation–The Seven Churches (Chapters 2-3).

Current Opportunities:

Audio Video Tech- to run sound and video on Sunday mornings.
Hispanic Missionary- someone to start a hispanic outreach ministry at TCATS for the growing hispanic population in the Sulfur Springs Valley.
Bible teachers- those interested in teaching the Bible or pastoring can be trained here.
Singers and Musicians.
If you have a particular calling, we will be sure you are equipped and put you to work for Christ’s kingdom.

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!

Our Missions Vision in 2020