Where Are the Confessional Church Planters?

R Scott Clark

Here is an article which is a recent re-post of an one posted nearly two years ago by R Scott Clark. It is interesting for a number of reasons, but the matter that grabs my attention is the sheer number of pastors there seems to be to apply for vacant charges in reformed churches in the US. Clark asks the obvious question: why are there not more wanting to plant new churches in needy areas?

I could add to this question another: why, if there are so many, are so few willing to go to other parts of the world that need missionaries to plant churches cross-culturally? Here in England and Wales I think the numbers are even worse. Our denomination (EPCEW) has 13 churches in E & W. Our total membership would not even half fill one US minimally “mega” church! Our sister church (IPC) is in about the same situation. We are the only confessionally reformed/presbyterian churches in the E & W!

So why so few willing to do the pioneering work? What are the blockages? Is there a prevailing mindset? Is there a need (to use Apple-speak) to “think different”?

 

Where Are the Confessional Church Planters?

What Should the Church Really Be Concerned About?

There is much that is good about Christian Concern. They are fighting for matters about which most Christians would bury their heads in the sand.

However this post (Court says Christians don’t keep Sunday special for it to be protected | Christian Concern) raises concerns for me.

Keep_Sunday_Special_lgThe case is about a woman who took a job believing she was given exemption from working on Sunday only to find later that her employer does not stand by that exemption. The case goes on with CC’s help.

The argument invokes a wider issue than just that of Sunday employment. The article above states:

“In passing the ruling, Mr Justice Langstaff held that Sunday was not a ‘core’ component of the Christian faith because some Christians would be prepared to work on a Sunday; and therefore Christians as a whole do not need Sunday protected.

The article goes on to express concern that we have the officers of the State ruling on what are core Christian beliefs. This is a right concern – the State must keep its fingers out of this sort of matter.

But the question is this: who does decide? Who gets to pronounce what is a core belief? This is where I have the concern, and it is a concern not so much about the State, which will always want to stick its fingers where they are not wanted, but about the church generally, and particularly in the UK.

There was a time when the church (that is, the visible church as a whole) expressed its core beliefs in creeds and confessions. It was a simple matter to point to what the core beliefs were: look up your confession of faith. Nowadays, with the wholesale fragmentation of the church under the pressure of enlightenment individualism (and, dare I say it, an erroneous belief in independency of the local church gone to seed) ask 100 people/churches what the core beliefs of Christianity are, and you get 100 different answers.

What we are left with, and I think it appears in this Christian Concern case, is not the defence of a Biblical and confessional position of the historic Christian church, but the defence of a particular personal belief as a core article of his/her Christian practice. What Christian Concern is defending is not the principle of Sabbath, which is Biblical and confessional, but what ultimately for them is more fundamental: the right to personal religious belief, which isn’t (see Acts 17:30 – “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” ESV, and then think about its implications). It is actually standing on a principle that derives from the Enlightenment.

This highlights for me how ill-equipped the modern Christian church is to fight the battles that are coming to keep the State’s sticky fingers out of the church’s affairs. The State wants to, but the church is confused about what it believes. So, it is unprepared and, for the most part, unconcerned about what should really be Christian concerns.

What Should the Church Really Be Concerned About?

Reading the Bible in 2013

Here is an email I sent out to our church today. I hope you find it helpful too. Thanks to Tim Challies for pointing me to the first two links.

Dear All,
Happy New Year! I pray that you will know a genuinely prosperous and good 2013.

We are a day into 2013 but it is not too late to use the occasion of a new year to think about how you are going to read the Bible during it. It ought to be the goal of every Christian to have their minds increasingly shaped and formed by the Bible. Our Lord wants our minds to be transformed rather than be conformed to the world (Romans 12:2). That means moving on from knowing a few isolated texts here and there to really knowing the Bible, what it is about and who it is about. This then shapes how we think about everything else. It is a lifetime activity, but every day is a an opportunity to be changed.

ImageLigonier Ministries has produced a list of Bible-reading plans from a variety of sources for getting into good Bible-reading habits in 2013 and have put it on their website here:
http://www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans/

Please take time to look at these plans, then choose one and go! I pray that by Christmas 2013, you will be able to say that you have read the Bible, and that you have been richly blessed by doing so!

In passing, here are some advice about how not to read your Bible:
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/12/30/how-not-to-read-your-bible-in-2013/

Finally, one lecture I found really helpful to listen to over the holiday period was Sinclair Ferguson’s “How to read the Bible” as part of his church’s regular programme of midweek teaching. You can download it from here:
http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=926121712269

It’s greatest value is in showing us how to think as we read i.e. who is the Bible about? what is the main plot line of the Bible? what are the main sub-plots? how do we handle different types of books in the Bible? There are many other practical issues he covers. The lecture is well worth spending an hour listening to.

Have a blessed 2013.

Yours,

S.

Rev Dr Stephen N Dancer
Minister, Solihull Presbyterian Church

church: www.solihullpres.org.uk
blog: doggiesbreakfast.wordpress.com
twitter: @stephendancer

Reading the Bible in 2013