• Church,  New Testament

    Elder, Bishop, or Pastor?

    How do you refer to church leaders? Do you use the term elder, bishop, or pastor? If you are confused by these different denominational terms you are not alone. A bishop is typically equated with Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches, although Anglican and a few Lutheran churches also use the term. The term elder is often associated with the Mormon church and the young men you meet in ties on your front porch, though more evangelical churches are utilizing the term elder now. For most people, the term pastor is an easily-recognizable term referring to the spiritual leader of a church. I grew up in a baptist church that had a pastor, and assistant pastor, and a deacon board. It was not until high school that I was introduced to the idea of elder. When I began to study what the Bible had to say about church leadership, what I…

  • Christian Living,  Church,  New Testament

    Church Discipline: The Forgotten Pillar

    Little known to most people, the 1561 Belgic Confession gives three marks by which the true church is known: (1) preaching the pure gospel, (2) observing the sacraments (i.e., baptism and communion), and (3) practicing church discipline. Throughout church history, church discipline has been an integral component of God-fearing churches. However, a recent survey of pastors revealed that 55% of churches have never formally disciplined a member. Another 21% stated that, although the church had practiced church discipline, it was three or more years ago. Clearly, church discipline has fallen on hard times and is hardly viewed as a pillar of the church. There are a variety of reasons churches do not practice church discipline. One reason, sadly, is ignorance. In order to alleviate the ignorance, my goal in this post is to provide a simple template for following church discipline as taught in Matthew 18:15–17. Church Discipline Step 1:…

  • Church

    Who Should Baptize in the Church?

    Should anyone be allowed to baptize in the church? It is an important question for the church that has been asked by others as well. I recently read a provocative article entitled, “The (In)significance of the Baptizer in the Early Church: The Importance of Baptism and Unimportance of the One who Baptized.” As the title suggests, the author argues that the evidence of the Early Church is to downplay those who baptize in the church. I think there is wisdom in not making the baptizer more than he ought to be. However, at the same time, I think there is wisdom in thinking about this issue and attempting to apply biblical principles. First, Matt 28:18-20 does not seem to limit those who baptize to a special class. Most people are willing to concede that Matt 28:18-20 applies beyond the Apostles, and has an impact on the church today. Thus, part…

  • Church,  Review

    Book Review: Shattered Shepherds – Finding Hope in the Midst of Ministry Disaster

    Conflict is inevitable in life. Even for pastors and church leaders, difficulties are not absent. Some shepherds go through such terrible times in their ministries that it is akin to losing a loved one. For the most part there has been a lack of helpful resources for pastors who find themselves in such situations. Steve Swartz’ book Shattered Shepherds fills this gap. Drawing upon Scripture and his own painful experience, pastor Swartz deals with how a church leader ought to deal with the aftermath of a divisive and difficult situation in church. I was privileged to be able to go to seminary with Steve, and I am thankful for this new book which will help many pastors deal with painful issues that they have gone through. I definitely recommend it as a resource for church leaders who feel pained by others in the church. On the other hand, the book…