The following is taken from two sermons preached at Heritage Bible Fellowship (Jan 27 / Feb 3, 2008). This page covers beliefs we have that transfer over into what we do.
The People of Heritage
“What we believe about people groups within our fellowship”
Let’s start from the top with Fathers. Throughout scripture we see the headship of fathers. When Eve sinned, God came looking for Adam. So Dads, whether we want to be or not, whether we’re good at it or not, whether we like it or not…we are the spiritual leaders of our homes….Period. It is not a position of leadership that we delegate to anyone else…not our wives, not the elders, not the pastor, not a curriculum. We are the spiritual leaders.
Now all of us have to various degrees failed in this area. If you’re relatively new here, and it appears that a family…or specifically a dad, has it all together...just ask him, for every success you may see, there’s a truckload of failures. We are not a perfect church made up of perfect families, made up of perfect dads. We all fall short. However, that is not an excuse for us to give up, but to instead press on!
Here's a statistic that just confirms that what God has been teaching in His Word is true...not that we needed a statistic to believe God. As the old saying goes, "God said, I believe it, and that settles it," is not really true. The truth is this: "God said it, and whether YOU believe it to be true or not doesn't matter...God said it and that by itself settles it - period!" However, based on the fact that we are so adamant in our churches today about having a "youth ministry" (in spite of the fact that we see nothing close to it in principle or practice in scripture), for some people though, this statistic may at least help them understand "why we do, what we do."
"Did you know that if a child is the first person in a household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow? If the mother is the first to become a Christian, there is a 17 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow. But if the father is first, there is a 93 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow."* Taken from the Baptist press 2003. Can be viewed at this link: http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=15630
So based on this statistic, why are churches allocating so much of their money for children and youth ministries - where we are only getting a 3.5 % return on their investment? Wouldn't we want a return of 93% instead? But think about how much money in church budgets are set aside to equip men, evangelize men, equip dads??? Not much, if any. So either today's churches are bad at math, or they are not seeking out God's principles for their methodology. We must realize that God has not left us hanging...His Word not only teaches us theology (what we believe) but also methodology (how to practice what we believe.) See Deut 6 and Titus 2. But today's church seems to take theology and add to it their methodology. "Yes, we'll reach families...put all the kids over here together (ironically, like they do in the public school system), give the moms a bible study, and let the dads stand around an wonder why their children and wives don't respect them as the spiritual leader of the home." Now it only gives a 3.5% return, but hey, it's our way of doing it here.
However, here at Heritage, we want to help facilitate the role of the father being the spiritual leader of the home, by NOT doing a few things. Most noticeably, we don’t send your children off to be with someone else or with their peers. We desire for all of your children, to learn how to worship, learn how to sit in worship, learn how to listen to the sermon, from you the dad, (as well as from mom and even older children). Apart from the biblical mandate for fathers to teach their children the ways and truths of God (Deut 6), we realize that pooling our children together for worship is ineffective. Think about this, what is one eight year old going to learn from another eight year old about worshipping God? But having them sit with their families during worship facilitates an environment for them to learn from dad!
Another way we help in this area is we have a very limited schedule concerning the meeting of the church family. In other words, we’re not here 3 to 5 nights a week. We want to facilitate the opportunity for you to have time at home to practice what it is we preach…for you the Fathers to be the pastor of your home and the missionary in your community.
Now we as leadership are to assist you in this area by edifying you. That’s what the body of Christ is to be doing…ministering. Turn with me to Eph 4:11-16. Do you see the teaching here? The word “perfecting” in the Greek means to “restore or prepare through equipment.” In other words, equipping you to make you complete.
Now God has given the church leadership to help the church family do the work of the ministry. However, the modern day church thinks that the “paid staff” should being doing the ministry and the rest of the church just sits back and watches. That is not how the church body is to function.
You, the church family, are to be equipped for a few reasons: (in other words, here’s the goal for you, as a dad, even as individuals and families) (VS 12) 1. It edifies the body. (VS 13) 2. Builds unity. 3. Grow in the knowledge of Christ. 4. To spiritually mature in Christ. (VS 14) 5. To quit being like spiritual babes. 6. To be steadfast doctrinally. 7. To guard against being deceived. (VS 15) 8. To speak the truth in love. (VS 16) 9. To increase the body of Christ. 10. To edify the body in love.
Wow! That’s quite a list! Understand that this is not a pastor’s job description, this is a believer’s job description. The shepherds, the pastors, the elders, the teachers…are to build up the body by equipping you…yes, all of you, to do the work of the ministry.
Are we perfect here at Heritage in doing that? No, we’ve failed - but I pray we are progressing. You also have to understand something here about us as leadership. None of us have been a part of any close attempt of biblical equipping for fathers or families. We haven’t have the privilege to learn by seeing it done…we’re learning as we’re going along. We essentially have had to start from scratch.
To equip fathers, to equip their families, to do the work of the ministry, is to some extent a foreign concept to the modern church today. However, we want to see to it that we learn from the scriptures and therefore our children will be able to do it right the first time because they’ve seen us do it. With that I ask that you please continue to pray for us as leadership as we seek the Lord in ways to adequately and properly equip those the Lord puts under our leadership.
So our biblical position on Fathers: they are to lead their families, they are to turn their hearts towards their children, they are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and they are to equip their families so that the next generation will follow Christ.
When it comes to Mothers: we believe that God has designed you to function in a role that was uniquely designed for you. We see motherhood as a celebration of what God intended you to be. We believe that you have a wonderful ministry that God has given you and one that no one else can meet except you. You are to be a helpmeet to your husband, and a mom who loves and nurtures your children and sees her vital role that is to be carried out in the home by being at home. Titus 2:3-5
God intentionally gave men and women different roles. They aren’t designed to be competitive but instead, complementary. And when a man tries to do what God has told a woman to do, and when a woman tries to do what God has commanded women to do…we’re going to have a mess of problems, confusion, and unbiblical practices. God did not make the woman less important than the man – they are equal in God’s eyes when it comes to their value and worth.
However, they do have different roles which God Himself established. We at Heritage celebrate those roles by desiring for our men to be godly men and our wives to be godly women. God also established church roles for men and women. The men are to lead in the church, the women – any teaching or leading they do is to be only with other women. This is what the bible teaches and therefore this is what we will practice.
We see the value of men doing what God created them to be and do. We also see that for women…motherhood, femininity, and just being a lady is honorable to God and in accordance to His Word. We at Heritage will celebrate that, and Lord willing, help Fathers instill those values in their wives and daughters.
Singles: One of the biggest and most common concerns about those outside of the family integrated church is what we are to do with singles? So what about singles in a family integrated church? What are we to do with them? Now when people ask this question, they don’t really realize what they are asking. They ask quite often with the idea that singles are a “special breed” of Christians that need to be quarantined with other singles. We don’t see anything even close to that in scripture. But it is a common question often raised by those who are unfamiliar with the early church practices and therefore, the family-integrated concept.
So, to answer that question…what do we do with singles…Let me give you this answer. We believe that singles (widows, single parents, unmarried) are vital to the local body because of who they are in Christ, not because of their marital status. Therefore, we incorporate them in our worship and our fellowship.
But does the bible say anything about this? Yes! Turn to Psalm 68:5-6. That word “solitary” in the Hebrew means “alone” and even “those who may have been forsaken, like orphans.” So this describes singles, young adults, widows and widowers, and even orphans. So what does God want us to do with them? Send them down the hall to a classroom by themselves. NO! God wants them with families. He’s a Father to the fatherless, a judge of the widows. God, the advocator of singles, says that He wants them with families. So that’s what we do.
Sure their needs may be different…but you want find two families in here who have the exact same needs….we’re all different. That’s not to divide us but to unite us as we collectively celebrate our uniqueness as individuals but our oneness in Christ. God doesn’t love married people more than single people or old people more than children. God loves all of His children.
Turn to I Cor 7:6-9. The apostle Paul was a single man…do you think he enjoyed the fellowship of all the believers in that local body or do you think when he visited a church, he attended the single’s class? No, Paul was a man of God who used his singleness to further the gospel and even said that he wished that all men were like him. But he acknowledge in vs 7 that he realized that God had made us all different. Now there’s a switch…
You see, Paul’s question for us would not be “what are you going to do with the singles,” he’d probably ask what we were going to do with all those “married people.” How are we going to help them because they have all these extra responsibilities of taking care of family on top of the fact of spreading the gospel? Paul saw singleness as a blessing for him… and so we too should see it that way…and therefore worship together as one in Christ.
This leads us more specifically to another group of singles…Sons and Daughters. How do we view children? More importantly, how does God view children? Here at Heritage, we place a high value on children…just as Jesus did and the scriptures do. We see children as a blessing, not a curse, not an inconvenience. We believe Psalm 127.
We live in a time when we bring the curse of debt upon ourselves and yet deprive ourselves of blessings. We go financially in debt to have what we can’t afford and deprive ourselves of many children because we don’t see them as a blessing. I had this discussion with someone one time on how we value money more than children. If I were to give you ten dollars and then ten more dollars and then ten more dollars and would only stop when you told me too (with the understanding that I millions of dollars) would you ever tell me to stop. Would you ever say, “you know, that’s enough money. I really don’t want anymore or see the need to have more money.” Would you do that? That person responded, “No.” But that’s how the most of the “modern church” views children. They are to be limited because ultimately, we don’t see their value. But God does. But we love money more than children.
Here at Heritage, children are appreciated and welcomed in our worship service. I realize that there are times they may need to be taken out for various reasons…but it’s not because we want them to get out of our sight. We want children to learn from us, fellowship with us and grow in Christ. Yet the typical church today (just look at congregations on TV) lack the attendance of children in their worship service. We see them as a blessing and take God at His word. They are too valuable to the body of Christ to have them removed from our time of worship. This is how we honor God by seeing the value of children.
“Where are all the programs?”
Now I want to transition from people to what is noticeably absent in our church, and that is programs. There’s going to be some overlap here but I feel it needs to be addressed. One of the first things you notice is that we are not a busy church. By that, I mean that we don’t have something going on all the time. We are by most standards pretty simple and basic in our functioning as a body. In fact, most of us probably left churches where we were running around from activity to activity, service to service…wearing ourselves and our families out. However, here…you don’t see that…and why is that?
There are a couple of reasons I want to share with you why we don’t have all the programs that are so common place in most churches…
Reason #1. We view ministry and discipleship as an outflow of the home. In other words, ministry is not scheduled driven by the church, it’s opportunity driven by God’s timing and direction. There are enough ministry opportunities for us to participate in without having to create them. And there are needs and ministries that are going to be unique and God-designed for your family. Now this isn’t to say that church leadership can’t come along and help a family or individuals by giving them direction and guidance. That in fact is what leadership is to do. You are to be equipped to go and minister. (Eph 4) But what I have noticed is this: If a family desires to serve God by ministering to others…God will provide the opportunities.
Yet it appears that the modern day church has fallen under this mentality that ministry is something that the church creates and we show up and do, usually at the church and usually with a lot of commitment. The problem with this is that all of our families are different – we have different schedules, different ages of children, and different gifts and abilities, we’re in different seasons of life. That’s a wonderful plan of God because through all the families represented here, there are countless ministry opportunities available. And ministry is not something you go and necessarily do…it’s an outflow of your life (like breathing…seldom in your life do you have to force, or remind yourself that you need to breathe)…and you’ll find as you grow in Christ, the better way to define all this is that you are a living, breathing ministry of Christ. Ministry is not a project.
One of the objections I have heard when someone hears about the family-integrated concept is this: If you don’t have programs and everyone stays together…how do you evangelize? I touched on this last week. You see, many believers today think that evangelism is a program that is scheduled by the church leadership. You go & do evangelism on Saturday mornings from 10am – noon…and then you’re done with evangelism. Someone may ask if you evangelize. I sure do..every Saturday between 10am-noon. What? But that’s not what evangelism is…
With all that said, our desire for this church is to see ministry happen in our communities, our neighborhoods, within our church family through God directing families…not us scheduling it as a church. Evangelize when you go to the store, meet with unsaved family, go to work. Meet needs as they occur within your church family, with neighbors. Disciple your children when you get up, lay down, and take a walk. Fellowship with believers by having them over, calling them, praying for them as a family. Don’t leave it up to the church to schedule it for you.
# 2. Another reason we have a limited schedule is that we want to free up time for fathers to lead families. Dads are busy. There are many responsibilities. What we don’t want to happen is for fathers to be taken away, by the church, at the cost of neglecting their families. As I said last week, when I was a youth pastor, one December I remember being gone out of my home 19 out of 24 nights. That will kill a family - and it was killing mine. So a limited amount of time away for church activities enables fathers to practice what they hear preached here - to lead their families. To turn their hearts towards their children…and you can’t do that when you are gone all the time.
# 3. Most programs in churches are based on age-segregation. Now let me clarify something here. There are times when segregation is helpful and necessary. However, we see nothing of that pattern in weekly worship. The segregation we always see in scripture is based on gender…for example, older women teaching younger women. We don’t see singles lumped together at the end of the hall, teenagers placed in the room furtherest from everyone, infants set over here near the couples class, and divorced women who are between the ages of 35 and 40 with 3 or more kids and want to do aerobics sent to the church gym. We don’t see a pattern like this in the early church when it comes to the usual functions of the church.
And yes, there are times when it is beneficial for there to be specific times of fellowship. Maybe a father-son outing with just the men and boys; (and this includes all the men of the church, even those with no sons because men who don’t have sons can still have a positive impact on my children) or mothers and daughters; or even marriage enrichment times such as a marriage retreat. What we see as detrimental to the health of the church body is the segregation of ages for worship and church fellowship. We don’t see that pattern, not even a hint of it, in the NT church. Now let’s turn and look at our worship service…
“Why is our service the way it is?”
One thing that keeps us focused in our worship service is Acts 2:41-42. Here we have a group of believers who were set on their spiritual journey and this is what they were to continue to do for the rest of their spiritual lives. They were to be sound in doctrine, continue in Christian fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers. This is a pretty simple list. Our desire here at Heritage is to make sure we see this verse as a reminder of what we as believers are to be doing in our weekly worship.
“Doctrine / Preaching”
In the area of doctrine, we preach primarily…probably 90%...verse by verse through the bible. We take a book, we just finished James, and go verse by verse through it. Our primary means of preaching is called expositional, as opposed to topical preaching. Let me explain a couple of reasons why expository preaching is more fruitful and yields to greater spiritual maturity:
1. It promotes the scriptures as authoritative. This is about what God wants us to hear, not what I think we need to hear. Scripture is the authority, not my opinion or your felt needs, or even our music. It is first here because it is our authority.
2. It magnifies God’s Word. Scripture is the focal point of this service…not the singing, not the fellowship. Everything we do is centered around the truth of scripture. Because if the Bible is treated as secondary, then everything else is in vain. We want God’s truth and Christ alone exalted. Expository preaching exemplifies that.
3. It leads us to think and live biblically. Verse by verse helps us with the context and helps us grasp fully what God is communicating to believers. Therefore, we are more equipped to live and think biblically.
4. It keeps the preacher on his toes. Expository preaching keeps me from preaching what I want to preach. It keeps me from spending time on what may for me be a soap box. It keeps me seeking the Lord in my studies. Topical would be easy. I preach what may come more natural or easy for me personally. But this isn’t about me and what I like, just like it’s not about you and your felt needs, week in and week out. It’s about what God wants to teach us a church family.
5. It teaches us the whole counsel of God. The bible is not a buffet…oh, I like that subject, but not that one. We should preach the whole counsel of God. Every word is God-breathed and it profitable…why avoid some of it? We need the whole counsel of God. Please understand that you can teach the bible by addressing certain topics. However, a steady diet of topical messages is more likely to be man-driven than scripture driven. Therefore, we want our steady diet of truth here to be just like it was written…verse by verse. This helps us also in our spiritual and biblical knowledge. By learning and studying groups of scriptures, we develop a love for the entire bible, not just verses here or there that we like.
6. It guards against false doctrine, easy believe-ism, and misinterpretation. Studying the bible in chunks helps us to grasp the context and forces us to examine even hard to grasp texts. ILL: Hebrews, difficult passage – had to go back and correct a misinterpretation. But that’s what dealing with entire texts causes us to do. (Portions of these points taken from John MacArthur’s Expository Preaching.)
The Bible & Music
I also preach out of the KJV. I want to address this very briefly. I find that the KJV is helpful to us in two ways. 1) It’s consistently accurate. 2) It’s the least offensive version. You will find families who may prefer another translation. But one reason I use it here is because it is the least offensive. I use the KJV as my text because it would be hard to find someone offended by using it. You will find people who would prefer to use something else maybe, but it would be hard to find someone offended because we use it.
And while I’m on this topic about offense…let me address our music. We sing hymns here. So why? Once again, let me give you two reasons. 1) Most hymns are accurate in their theology or doctrine and are conservative in music. Not all hymns, but most. Now this leads to my next point, similar to point #2 in our use of the KJV…2. Hymns are seldom offensive. Once again, you may not like hymns and want to sing something else, but I doubt you would storm out of here offended if we sung them. But if we brought in a band and cranked it up and did everything contemporary, it’s highly likely there would be several people offended. But like the KJV, I realize that hymns may not be all that you listen or sing at your home. I’m fine with that because that’s your jurisdiction as Fathers. But here, we have more than just one family to consider, we have a flock. Therefore we have a conservative approach to our music that is also unlikely to be offensive.
This is not a hard one to preach one. We encourage fellowship here at Heritage. We desire for it to happen not just on Sunday, but at times even in your homes. The fellowship of believers is a taste of heaven. One means of facilitating this is by our twice-a-month meal fellowship. This allows us to spend a little more time together and enjoy the blessing of fellowship.
Now sometimes you may think that we don’t have enough fellowship. To that I say, you are welcome to invite anyone over to you home whenever you need that extra fellowship. That is also the mentality…as a stated earlier…of the family-integrated church. Use your home…to be a resource of fellowship, discipleship, and evangelism. If you think, my home’s too small…meet at a park with another family. Fellowship is easy if it’s something you desire to increase in your family’s life.
Every week, Lord willing, we have communion. Why? I’m like some of you in that when I was growing up, communion was once a month, once a quarter…very rare in the life of the church. In fact, it seemed to take on a more “magical” aspect of church because it was so rare. So why do we do it every week here? Well, Acts said that they continued steadfastly…now I don’t know about you, but continuing steadfastly does not seem to be once every year or every quarter. I mean, look what else is put into this category…let’s pray, once a month, study scripture once a month, fellowship once a month, and take communion once a month.
But most churches at least preach once a week, fellowship often, prayer somewhat regularly, but then there’s communion…a limited observance of it? The early church did this quite often. And when we stop to think of what it is we are remembering…the sacrifice of our Savior, the examination of ourselves…why would we want to do this only every so often? What a blessing we miss by being infrequent guests of the Lord’s Table.
And it does cause us to examine ourselves, weekly. I had a friend who asked about our church and when they found out we had communion every week, they replied, “well, I guess you would then have to deal with your sin and examine yourself every week.” (As if self-examination was something one would prefer to do as little as possible.) But if we are serious about our walk with the Lord, we would not run from this…but run to it and look forward to coming together as a church body. It also keeps us, if we are honest with the Lord, in a state of unity among believers. What a joy to be able to seek the Lord together in remembrance of His suffering death…just as He commanded.
We offer prayer throughout our service. We exhort you to always, as the scripture teach, to be in a constant attitude of prayer…to pray without ceasing. “Without ceasing” means even during our weekly worship service. Jesus said in the gospels, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” Prayer should be a vital part of the lives of God’s people and the weekly worship of the church family; that’s why we pray several times during our services here.
I look back and rejoice at what the Lord has done in the last four years here at Heritage. I also, with great anticipation, look forward to the years ahead. I ask that you continue to pray for us and to pray for one another as we grow in Christ.