CBC Blog

No Big Men in Christ-Centered Leadership

January 22, 2016
22 Jan 2016

Insightful and helpful thoughts from Bob Osborne…
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned about leadership is one I look back on with embarrassment. I was a young man working in Africa for UNICEF and CARE, two of the world’s largest humanitarian agencies, which gave me a certain perceived power. Native Africans deferred to me simply because I was an American with some responsibility.
This worked its way into me so deeply that I started believing it, which was toxic. When placed in leadership I ruled by the strength of my position—by dictate and fear. In Africa this is called the “Bwana Syndrome,” “bwana” being the “big man.” I became a bwana. My approach was to use others to accomplish my goals. I was building my kingdom.

God Overhauled My Life

When I became a Christian, though, God overhauled my life. I began seeing people not as objects to use but as people made in God’s image with unique abilities, passions, and interests. My responsibility as a leader was to serve them.

When Jesus spoke about big men, he said:

You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. (Mark 10:42–44)

As a leader in Jesus’s kingdom, I must see those around me and consider how I can serve them. How do I help them remove roadblocks to becoming all they can be in Christ?

Christ-Centered Leadership Lessons

There are many ways this aspect of Christlike leadership might play out for those of us who want our leadership to flow from our faith. Here are five:

1. Smash glass ceilings.

Most people have obstacles holding them down, keeping them from goals they’d like to achieve. They may believe they aren’t smart enough or talented enough, or aren’t in the right place. A leader can help people identify their “glass ceilings” and then smash through them.

This is a entirely different from looking at people only to see what they can do for you. I long to be a leader about whom others say, “He helped me achieve my goals.” Hence one of my work mantras is: “I care more about you and your faith in Christ than what you do for me or Serge.”

2. Model weakness.

Many approach work and other group tasks feeling a constant need to prove themselves competent. They spend their whole work lives worrying about their reputations and defending their right to be in their jobs. They seldom learn and grow. I want to be transparent about my struggles and weaknesses so that I model running to Christ—pointing others to Christ and his sufficiency rather than pointing them to a “strong Bob” who has it all together.

If you’re always trying to prove your own fitness as a leader, you’ll make others feel less fit and less empowered. And you’ll never have joy. So create an environment where admissions of weakness are not just allowed, but encouraged. It is invigorating to see the power of God at work as he meets us in our weakness.

3. Have fun.

When people don’t feel pressure to prove themselves—and when they feel cared for instead of used—relationships can flourish. Good leaders spend time with those they lead, without any agenda. They take them to lunch and are interested in their lives. They celebrate and give thanks together.

Godly leaders may even be able to pray with those they lead, and to come alongside them in personal struggles. To be that kind of leader, though, you can’t take yourself too seriously. I recently heard it said you can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can in a year of monthly, hour-long meetings.

4. Grow in Christ.

Only a leader who’s secure in Christ will be free to serve others. A leader whose identity is wrapped up in a job title or list of achievements is bound to end up defending himself and using others.

So be more concerned about your spiritual health and growth in Christ than you are about building an organization. Know that your supreme joy and lasting hope are found in belonging to Jesus. And out of that confidence, care for others will overflow.

5. Be spiritually curious.

One of our greatest desires is to be truly known and truly loved, but it’s so often an elusive dream. What do you think happens when you inquire about how someone is doing? It gives them a chance to tell you a little about themselves, and it gives you an opportunity to validate, honor, and bless someone for being spiritually curious.

It’s always amazed me that Jesus asked so many questions. A thoughtful question can profoundly encourage someone and strengthen their faith.

Only One Big Man

Jesus and his good news trains us never to think of ourselves as the big man. The only bwana is Jesus, and he practiced leadership by obeying his Father and thinking of others. He is the example for us, and his grace provides us with the ability to lead in a godly manner.

When we know that we are safe in Jesus—the big man who humbled himself for us—our insecurities fade and we are set free to love and serve others.

“For even the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Bob Osborne


Bob Osborne is executive director of Serge, a mission-sending agency with more than 250 missionaries serving around the world. He loves Serge because it’s an agency that believes missionaries need the gospel as much as anyone else does.

Jesus is the Christ, and, adoption is enough!!!

December 15, 2015
15 Dec 2015

So I don’t usually respond to any of the comments that I receive on the back of sermons, well not in any public sense. But this time I feel the need. Not in any way to simply correct others but rather to help us to stand together amazed in the wonder of the gospel of Christ.

I preached on Sunday morning that the Christ would come from the lineage of David. This was a promise that God had made to David, God binding Himself in covenant (Ps 89: 29). And since God cannot lie, then the Christ had to come from that lineage. So Ray McLaughlin in the ‘Reformed Perspectives Magazine’ said this, ‘The Son of God had no inherent right to be the Messiah.’ God had bound Himself to David in covenant and He must be faithful. Thus far every bible believer is happy and content.

The thrust of my sermon was a desire to display the significance of Joseph in the light of God’s over-arching story of redemption, which centres upon His Son Jesus, who was and is the Christ. Joseph’s part was to take Mary as his wife, and, ‘to adopt’ her son as his own. This is what is happening through his naming of the child in Matthew 1: 21 and 25 (cp Is. 43: 1). Now in the same chapter it is Joseph who is clearly identified as belonging to the house of David (Mthw 1: 20). As he is in Luke’s gospel too (Lk 1: 27). So my point was that through ‘adoption’ Jesus is engrafted into the lineage of David.

But the strange thing has been the response from several folks. It almost seems as if adoption isn’t enough. The suggestion being that adoption wouldn’t have given Jesus the full rights of a child born naturally as others in the house of David. Instead of believing in the wonder and security of what adoption means we almost feel compelled to find another way in which Jesus came to be in the lineage of king David.

So the comment I have heard several times since Sunday expressed in a rich variety of different ways has been this one, ‘You must remember that it wasn’t just Joseph who was from the line of David so was Mary.’ Now quite aside from the fact that lineage is traced through the male line, this idea of Mary being from the lineage of David does beg a simple question to be asked; ‘How do we know Mary is from the house of David?‘ In actual fact do we even now what tribe she is from?

Many folk I’ve asked this question to have simply ‘assumed’ she is from the house of David. When asked why, the response has been along the lines of, ‘Well doesn’t it say that in the bible somewhere?’

Actually, no it doesn’t. Yes, we can make suggestions based on the differing genealogies in Luke and Matthew, but, we cannot even be certain about the tribe to which Mary belonged. But, some may counter, how else could Jesus be the Christ who is promised to come from the line of David? And that is the point that is concerning me. After all don’t we believe that adoption is enough to secure all the rights of full sonship? You see this is getting right to the heart of the gospel itself.

If we don’t believe adoption is enough in regard to Jesus becoming the Christ, then how on earth can we ever believe that adoption is enough in regard to us becoming the children of God. By faith we have received the spirit of adoption by which we cry out Abba Father. 

If I can believe He, Jesus, is the Christ through adoption into the lineage of David, and that is enough. Then surely, I can believe that through the adoption of the Spirit I am placed into the very family of God, really and truly. With all the privileges of a real son that the gospel of justification brings. He was adopted into the family of King David that we by faith might be adopted into the family of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Isn’t the Christmas story just awesome!!??




It’s His story that really matters, right!?

December 15, 2015
15 Dec 2015

A parable on faith and works

November 10, 2015
10 Nov 2015

Why you should be praying the Psalms!

September 10, 2015
10 Sep 2015






I’m sure such folks are out there, but I’ve not personally met any Christian who hasn’t struggled with saying the same old things about the same old things in prayer. Before long, such repetitive prayer is boring. And when prayer is boring, it’s hard to pray — at least with any joy and fervency.

Note that the problem is not that we pray about the same old things. Actually, that’s normal, because our lives tend to consist pretty much of the same old things from one day to the next. Thankfully, the big things in life (our family, our church, our job, etc.) don’t change dramatically very often.

Instead the problem is that we say the same old things about the same old things. And prayers without variety eventually become words without meaning. The result of such praying is that we tend to feel like failures in prayer. We assume that, despite our devotion to Christ, love for God, and desire for a meaningful prayer life, we must be second-rate Christians because our minds wander so much in prayer.

No, the problem may not be you; rather it may be your method.

I believe that the simple, permanent, biblical solution to this almost universal problem is to stop making up your own prayers most of the time (because that results in repetitious prayer) and to pray the Bible instead.

Praying the Bible means talking to God about what comes to mind as you read the Bible. Usually you might read the passage first, then go back and pray through what you just read.

So, for instance, if today you turned to Psalm 23 in your devotional reading, after completing it you would come back to verse 1 and pray about what occurs to you as you read “The Lord is my shepherd.” You might thank the Lord for being your shepherd, ask him to shepherd you in a decision that’s before you, entreat him to cause your children to love him as their shepherd, too, and pray anything else that comes to mind as you consider that verse.

Then when nothing else in those words prompts prayer, you continue by doing the same with the next line, “I shall not want.” Thus you would go through the chapter, line-by-line, until you ran out of time.

By praying in this way, you discover that you never again say the same old things about the same old things.

While you can pray through any part of the Bible, some books and chapters are much easier to pray through than others. Overall, I believe the Book of Psalms is the best place in Scripture from which to pray Scripture.

In part that’s because the Psalms are the only book of the Bible inspired by God for the expressed purpose of being reflected to God. God inspired them as songs, songs for use in the worship of God.

The Psalms also work so well in prayer because there’s a psalm for every sigh of the soul. You’ll never go through anything in life in which the root emotion is not found in one or more of the Psalms. Thus the Psalms put into expression that which is looking for expression in our hearts.

Christian, here’s how you’ll benefit from praying the Psalms:

1. You’ll pray more biblically faithful prayers.

The Bible will guide your prayers, helping you to speak to God with words that have come from the mind and heart of God. This also means you’ll be praying more in accordance with the will of God. Can you have any greater assurance that you are praying the will of God than when you are praying the Word of God?

2. You’ll be freed from the boredom of saying the same about the same old things in prayer.

One way this will happen is that the psalm will prompt you to pray about things you normally wouldn’t think to pray. You’ll find yourself praying about people and situations that you’d never think to put on a prayer list.

Another way is that even though you also continue to pray about the same things, (family, church, job, etc.), you’ll pray about them in new ways. Instead of saying, “Lord, please bless my family,” the text will guide you to pray things such as, “Lord, please be a shield around my family today” if you are praying through Psalm 3:3, for example.

3. You’ll pray more God-centered prayers.

When you use a God-focused guide like the psalms to prompt your prayers, you’ll pray less selfishly and with more attention to the ways, the will, and the attributes of God.

Prayer becomes less about what you want God to do for you (though that is always a part of biblical praying) and more about the concerns of God and his kingdom.

4. You’ll enjoy more focus in prayer.

When you say the same old things in prayer every day, it’s easy for your mind to wander. You find yourself praying auto-pilot prayer — repeating words without thinking about either them or the God to whom you offer them.

But when you pray the Bible your mind has a place to focus. And when your thoughts do wander, you have a place to return to — the next verse.

5. You’ll find that prayer becomes more like a real conversation with a real Person.

Isn’t that what prayer should be? Prayer is talking with a Person, the Person of God himself. Prayer is not a monologue spoken in the direction of God. Yet somehow, many people assume that when they meet with the Lord he should remain silent and they should do all the talking.

When we pray the psalms, though, our monologue to God becomes a conversation with God. I’m not alluding to the perception of some spiritual impression or hearing an inner voice, imagining God saying things to us — away with that sort of mysticism.

Instead, I’m referring to the Bible as the means by which God participates in the conversation, for the Bible is God speaking. God speaks in the Bible, and you respond to that in prayer. That’s why people who try this often report, “The pressure was off. I didn’t have to think about what to say next, and the whole experience just kind of flowed.”

* * *

Want to experience these benefits for yourself? How about right now? Pick a psalm, read what God says there, and talk with him about it.
Written by
Donald S. Whitney

Teaching Weekend 22nd-23rd August
August 11, 2015
11 Aug 2015




Altars were places where the divine and human worlds interacted. Altars were places of exchange, communication, and influence. God responded actively to altar activity


A weekend of teaching and worship
22nd-23rd August

Venue: Barn Church of Scotland and Culloden Academy
Teaching by Joe Barnard of Kiltarlity Free Church and Kenny Ross of Culloden Baptist Church

Sessions as follows:

Saturday sessions will be held at the Barn Church of Scotland
Saturday 1030 The beginning of altars
Saturday 1200 The purity of altars
Saturday 1430 The war of the altars
Saturday 1930 The summation of all altars
Sunday morning sessions will be held at Culloden Academy and Kiltarlity Free Church
Sunday 1030 The altar of our lives
Sunday 1430 The church as altar (This session held at Culloden Academy will include the commissioning of Living Hope Church)
Each teaching session will last around 1 hour and will include teaching and sung worship.

Event arranged by Culloden Baptist Church.

We are an awkward-sized church!

July 30, 2015
30 Jul 2015

A few weeks back, well maybe months, a fellow minister suggested I read a book entitled ‘Ready, Steady Grow.’ He, having lead a church plant to become a large church, felt it gave a very interesting insight into the different sizes of church. Many people have pointed out that the size of a church will have direct bearing on the church culture. Timothy Keller says the following for instance, ‘A church’s functional style, its strengths and weaknesses, and the roles of its lay and staff leaders will change dramatically as its size changes.’

The the interesting thing about ‘Ready, Steady Grow’ is that it places CBC in a particular category. It suggests there are five sizes of church; small, medium, awkward, large and mega. It appears that we fit into the ‘awkward’ sized church. Encouraging right?! But it is insightful to read.

So why not make some time and have a a read of what follows. Yes it’s a little long, but you know what they say;  ‘rake and you’ll get leaves but dig and you’ll get gold.’


The A- sized church, with a grade ‘D’ for difficulty

I thought there was just one more category – small, medium and of course…large? No, I discovered that there is the awkward- sized church! What exactly is that? It’s the size in which, no matter how hard a full- time pastor works, things seem to come unstuck. Even the highest capacity worker will struggle with much more than 150 attending, unless things change. Indeed, it takes more than leaders with good people skills to take the church through this phase.

Could this glass ceiling be why many churches remain the size they are? Could this be why many plateau and then slowly decline, with lots of frustrated members, as they approach this size?

The awkward- sized church needs exploring in some depth. Whereas there is a lot written about planting and growing small churches, there is little help for leaders at this point. Now is when important leadership skills need to emerge and some very big ‘re- engineering’ changes have to happen if the church is to go forward – either into a larger- sized category or into vigorous church planting.

The awkward- sized church (about 150 to 400 attendees) will present three main problems, and it will not feel as if it provides many positives to its members for some time.

Problem 1: mindset

Essentially, the problem is this: the church is growing beyond everyone knowing everyone by name. For many, belonging to a church in which this happens is a sure sign of relational failure, and for some even a mark that the church is straying from a biblical pattern. In a medium- sized church that is slowly growing, this creeps up on people. To start with, core people keep expanding their network circles to connect to new people. The pastor may work hard, spending extra time with visitors. He may exhort members to be better at welcoming, better at talking to people they don’t know and better at hospitality. But the church which had been so good at embracing the new, the needy and the neglected begins to fear that such people are now falling through the cracks.

Compounding this, new people don’t even start to get to know everyone; they realize that this is a receding target. They settle into the habit of talking to people like themselves, those with whom they most naturally connect. Many, attracted by the positive aspects of a healthy church, just benefit from what it offers. To core people, these new members seem to be part of a growing fringe that doesn’t commit to helping in the way that everyone had to do when the church was growing from small to medium.

People are coming up against the thing they assume is true of a large church and which they fear is happening to them, namely that the church, their church, is becoming impersonal, and consumed by a chasing after numbers.

Many conservative evangelical Christians in the UK seem to have a strong aversion to such growth pains, and the thought of their church really growing is not what they desire in their deepest heart, whatever they may say.

Problem 2: leadership capability

The pastor now feels that the visitation and counselling and organizing of the growing number of meetings are becoming past him. Everyone still wants him to be their personal pastor/chaplain. He will have to work at speed; what is going to get missed? Which of the many spinning plates is going to crash to the ground first? What else will fail? Will it be his health or his family life? Will there be a sharp comment to a disgruntled person? By now there are quite a few of those, as people are raising all kinds of concerns, in short: ‘The church isn’t what it used to be!’ It all seems so bizarre: ‘We have prayed for growth for so long, so how come it feels so negative ?’ This is the unspoken question that many, including the pastor, are asking.

The leadership of a church approaching the awkward size will begin to notice the organizational complexity. Larry Osborne, an American pastor who has written extensively about this issue, talks about leadership teams that were once very small- scale. He describes the sole pastor being like a ‘track athlete’, with members cheering him on to perform well. That moves on to a form of leadership which he likens to ‘golf buddies’, where a small leadership team is built around personal friendship, shared and tacit understandings of many key spiritual issues, and where decisions are made informally. This gives way, in the awkward- sized church, to a leadership structure more akin to a basketball team, where there are some specialists and roles which are clearly mapped out, and where orders are given and taken by the other leadership ‘players’. Finally, he likens a large- church leadership structure to an American football team with its offence, defence and special teams (a UK equivalent might be a rugby union team with its front row, backs and fullback). If a ‘track- athlete’ sole pastor is to change his leadership style to manoeuvre through all these required leadership level changes, this will take some adjustment.

Problem 3: organizing tasks

On top of this, one of the great frictions in the awkward- sized church is the way work gets done. Typically, in smaller churches, active members often have their fingers in many pies and will be aware of most things going on; this dynamic structure works really well. It is impossible to make this work now, because what brings stability to a smaller church will stifle the progress of an awkward- sized one. So, as it tran­sitions, the church has to make one of its biggest structural changes: no- one can possibly know all that is going on, no- one can meet all the needs, yet jobs still need to get done.

Without knowing how to handle this issue, the leaders will be blaming all the wrong people or the wrong things. We will see how to negotiate these serious structural problems in several of the next chapters.

The strong temptation is to ignore all of this and just enjoy the benefits of no longer being small and struggling. David Anderson has observed that medium- and awkward- sized congregations tend to lose the evangelistic focus they once had, and instead adopt what he calls a ‘club mentality’. ‘You have just enough people not to be missional anymore [and] you don’t have to grow anymore to sustain your budget.’

Having ‘just enough’ – did you spot that? It’s the subtle danger. Enough people to get the jobs done and pay the bills, enough work to keep one pastor busy, enough visitors to create the impression that mission is happening, enough problems not to want any more. It takes a strong sense of urgent purposefulness not to want to stay in this relatively safe place, but to tackle the challenges of growing the church.

However, if the temptation to become self- satisfied can be resisted, the church may, by God’s grace, grow large.”


Youth and the Church

July 25, 2015
25 Jul 2015

Some thoughts shared by our own Stuart Prentice at an evening service on 19th July 2015:

Over the past 2 or 3 weeks I’ve come across a few articles and studies that look at the dropout rates of teenagers and young people from the church as they move on from high school.

So let’s start off with some nice dry statistics!

Now these studies were conducted in America but appear to be reflected in England and I have no doubt would transfer into our own experiences here in Scotland. If anything a study in Scotland might make for even grimmer reading as in the US the studies found that half of all teenagers in the US attend church on a regular basis. This certainly wouldn’t be my experience in Scotland. By age 25, 42% of them will have dropped away, by age 29 this rises to 58%. Another study puts this number as high as 86%, with another putting it at 70% of teenagers and young adults.

Let’s be clear on this, at its most conservative these studies are saying take the number of teenagers and half it.

Half it again and that is the number of young people that will stay in the church while the rest drop out. Away from these statistics I’m sure we all know and are praying for people we know that would fit into this description, those that have grown up in the church through childhood and their teenage years and for whatever reason have moved away, or dropped out of the church. For many this is a painful subject and one that is prayed over constantly. It wouldn’t do to patronise or belittle these experiences as statistics.


There is a glimmer of hope. One of these studies also found that of these drop outs, two thirds will eventually return to a church at some point later down the line, most commonly when they themselves have grown older or settled down and had a family or children of their own.

There are 3 common factors that are found that help to support, encourage and build up youths as they go through this drop zone, which are also found to help bring back some of those that have dropped away.

1) A home with a committed, faithful Christian parent or parents. If you are one of these parents be encouraged and keep praying!

2) Discipleship, discipleship and more discipleship. One of the most common factors is somebody taking the time to personally draw alongside and disciple them, something that is prominent in my own testimony.

3) We need to recognise that it takes a church, a whole church, to disciple, raise and pastor the youth and young adults in our churches.


And it’s with this in mind that we can look at Titus 2.

Written by Paul, a man who majored in discipleship, to a young church leader called Titus.

This letter, along with the two that he wrote to Timothy form the three letters that are known as the Pastoral Epistles.

In his letter to Titus Paul deals predominantly at first with the issues of false teachers and false teachings. One of the ways of dealing with this is through Spiritually healthy relationships within the church which in turn point to the Gospel as the source of godliness. Paul’s letter was written to Titus but it was for Titus to share with and instruct his whole church.


Titus 2 is not addressed to youth leaders, Sunday School teachers or even to parents. This is not how to raise your children, though the Bible has plenty to say about this in other parts. This is for the whole church. Older men, older women, younger men, younger women and slaves. Everybody in the church can fit into at least one these categories!


Older men are called to be “soberminded, dignified, selfcontrolled,sound in faith, in love and in steadfastness.” (Titus 2v2) “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good.” (Titus 2v3) Our lives are to be instructional. This is about behaviour but not simply for behaviours sake.


This is behaviour borne out of sound doctrine. Older men and women in the church must show that they are living their lives according to the Gospel or as it says in verses 1114: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live selfcontrolled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”


But as well as living Godly lives there is an active teaching element being described here. Our lives have to be instructional but that instruction also has to be intentional. Young women are to be taught and trained (verse 4). Likewise young men, who are also to be urged to be selfcontrolled.

That urging cannot be a passive a thing. When we urge someone to do something we are actively encouraging them, driving them on forwards, supporting them and building them up. We should be arriving alongside them. We need to accept for ourselves the charge set out in Titus. We need to “model good works, teach with integrity, dignity and sound speech.” (verses 78)


What does this look like at Culloden Baptist Church, or your own church? Yes we might have Sunday School and yes we have Youth Fellowship but is that what is being spoken of Titus?


These things are far too important to be left solely in the hands of youth leaders! What could this look like in our churches? I want to challenge us to think and pray about this. What does our discipleship look like in churches? What does our personal discipleship look like? You are never too old to disciple or be discipled. And of our whole church approach to discipling, by the power of the Gospel, by the grace of God and the freedom given to us by our saviour Jesus Christ, let’s hold fast to our young folks, encourage and build up the youth in our church, lest they become a statistic that drops away from the church.


(Studies cited were found through

http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/may/dropoutsanddiscipleshowmanystudentsarereallyleaving.html and at https://www.barna.org/barnaupdate/5barnaupdate/127twentysomethingsstruggletofindtheirplaceinchristianchurches#.VbN5yYhwZpU)

Why join a church?

July 23, 2015
23 Jul 2015



One of the most counter-cultural things you can do is become an engaged member of a faithful local church.

In our flighty and noncommittal age, neither non-Christians nor Christians are naturally inclined to find a place to put down roots and make longstanding, objective commitments for the good of others. We want to keep our options open and, above all, preserve our own freedom of choice, rather than make a covenant for the long haul and embrace a framework for real life in all its ups and downs.

But what if you went against the grain and became part of the solution to the modern problem of being so noncommittal? What if you joined the rebellion, and pledged your loyalty and engagement to a Bible-believing, gospel-cherishing local church?

Does the Bible Even Mention Membership?

Most of us have raised eyebrows at some point about the concept of church membership. “Membership” — where do we see that in the New Testament? Is it really essential to join a church? Can’t I get everything I need as a Christian from being a regular attender?

It’s true that the New Testament makes no direct argument for our modern concept of membership. The gospel’s initial advance into a pagan and pre-Christian world was a different situation than we find today in our increasingly post-Christian society. The complexities of life two millennia later make church-belonging as difficult, and as important, as ever. Not only are we less inclined to make firm commitments, but our cities and towns are much bigger, and church options more diverse.

But whether you call it “membership,” “partnership,” or something else, the New Testament assumes some form of committed, accountable belonging as a reality for every true follower of Jesus. Each Christian has a definite place of local belonging. To be baptized is to become part of a particular local body.

“In the New Testament,” John Piper observes, “to be excluded from the local church was to be excluded from Christ.”

Six Reasons to Put Down Roots

Here, then, are six reasons, among many, to go against the noncommittal grain, put down roots, join a particular local church, and be as involved as possible in the life of that church.

1. Your Own Assurance

Being accepted into membership in a Bible-believing, responsibly-led church rightly gives affirmation and reinforces confidence that your faith is real, that it’s not your own private, self-made religion, but part of “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Jesus gives his church “the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” and according to Matthew 16:19, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” It is no small thing for a solid local church to find your profession of faith to be credible, and your lifestyle and conduct not disqualifying, and to accept you into membership.

There is more grace to be experienced in this, for our assurance, than most of us know.

2. The Good of Others

This is perhaps the most often overlooked reason for joining a church. In our proclivity to self-focus, we consider the reasons relating directly to us, but overlook how our membership relates to others.

Our belonging somewhere establishes a base from which we can reliably care for others. There are two sides to church membership, and we can’t keep others accountable for their good to a covenant we ourselves haven’t taken.

True love is not only manifest in affection and action, but also allegiance. We do not fully love our brothers and sisters in Christ if we withhold pledging our allegiance to them by covenanting with them in local-church life. Love doesn’t say, “I love these people and don’t need to covenant with them.” Rather, it says, “I love these people enough to covenant with them.”

Living the Christian life in community is more than just loose associations, but committing to each other to be there for each other when life is hard, in sickness and in sorrow.

3. Your Own Good

On the flip side, it is for your own good to have others committed to genuinely caring for you in Christ. And the people who will care for you best in the long run are those who are willing to commit to it.

“The people who will care for you best in the long run are those who are willing to commit to it.” Tweet
Joining the church also formally identifies you as part of “the flock” which the church’s pastors and elders should “shepherd” (1 Peter 5:2) and to which they should “pay careful attention” (Acts 20:28). It is for your own good in being intentionally thought of and cared for by the leadership.

4. The Good of Your Leaders

Connected, then, is the clarity it brings the leadership about who is in their “lot,” who is “in their charge” (1 Peter 5:3), who in particular are they called to serve and shepherd.

In other words, your formally joining the church helps the pastors and elders do their job. How are they to shepherd the flock if they don’t know who is in that flock and who is not?

It is difficult, if not impossible, to respect and esteem your leaders (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13), and honor them (1 Timothy 5:17), and obey and submit to them (Hebrews 13:17) without identifying yourself to them and submitting to the membership structure that allows them to know and care best for those in their charge.

5. The Good of Unbelievers

Another good reason for joining a church is the good of those who are not there yet — even those who don’t yet know Jesus. Because we reach out and show Christ better as part of a committed, stable community. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

A lone-ranger Christian doesn’t make the best witness for Christ. Rather, someone who is grounded, has a home, and is part of a solid covenant community of support is best prepared to draw others into the kingdom.

Community is increasingly important in out witness today. As Christians who are truly faithful to the voice of Christ find themselves more and more in the minority of society, we need other believers to point to, that we’re not alone in our seemingly strange views, both in history and today. And the whole community together serves to put Christ on display better than individual Christians alone.

This happens best not in fly-by-night, uncommitted associations, but in deep, committed, long-standing, life-together relationships in this time-tested arrangement called “the local church,” established and upheld in the wisdom and power of Jesus himself.

6. Your Own Perseverance

Finally, covenanting with others now not to let you wander from the gospel, without pressing hard to bring you back, may one day prove priceless for your perseverance in the faith — and your eternity with Christ. It is, after all, as Jesus said, the one who endures to the end who will be saved (Matthew 24:13).

In a good church covenant, we yoke ourselves to accountability while we’re in our right minds, in case someday sin gets a foothold in our hearts and blinds us to the truth. Church discipline is hard, but so good. The purpose is always restoration, and God often has been pleased to use this difficult means to pour out his striking grace.

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19–20)

David Mathis


David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He has edited several books, including Finish the Mission, Acting the Miracle, and most recently Cross, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.

How to Identify and Redeem Your ‘Money Motivators.’

July 1, 2015
01 Jul 2015

In Matthew 6:21, Jesus teaches, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Since all sinful behavior ultimately stems from idolatry or disordered loves, this is a profoundly important statement. The implication is that by examining what really drives our financial decision-making, we can discover more precisely the nature of our brokenness and what we actually worship.

Initial attempts to diagnose our primary financial motivations will likely yield general observations. For instance, through candid introspection about my own feelings related to money, I may acknowledge a struggle with greed, materialism, or envy. That is helpful but not specific enough. To determine what it is I actually “treasure,” I need to dig deeper.

Consider the following: “I struggle with greed because I ultimately seek ______ and believe money can provide it.” Or, “I envy people who are richer than me because money can help them experience a greater degree of ______.”

Based on research and experience as a financial planner, I believe we can narrow down to four possible options for filling in those blanks. The primary motivators for financial decisions are:

control (security)
comfort (freedom)
power (status)
approval (love).
None of these is inherently bad, but each of us is prone to turn at least one of these into an idol by valuing it above all else and looking for money to provide it.

Blind Spots to Financial Sin

Unless you are looking for them, these motivations are often hidden. That’s why the Bible cautions us to watch out for greed and monetary temptations (Luke 12:15). We can often be completely oblivious to sinfulness related to money because, unlike many other sins, there are no easily identifiable markers or absolutes. You know if you’ve committed adultery, murder, or lied. But materialism or greed is a lot harder to identify. It is a heart issue, which is why it may go completely undetected, particularly in a culture that prizes individualism and financial success above all else.

For instance, many highly successful and wealthy people trust in money to provide security. An undercurrent of worry and anxiety about never having enough can actually fuel fiscal responsibility. As a result, this type of person can end up in an admirable financial position in which even most church-sponsored money management courses would provide nothing but positive reinforcement and praise.

As a financial planner, I’m not saying wise management is all bad; financially responsible behaviors should be encouraged. But if we are concerned about more than achieving some version of the American dream, we need to examine not only the results but also the motivations fueling those results. In this example, a desire for control may be this person’s functional savior. Financial independence may provide an illusion of control and self-sufficiency that seemingly does not require trusting God for provision.

The person who looks to money to provide a certain level of status or image is likely suffer unceasing discontent beneath the surface. Augustine’s comment—“You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you”—is particularly poignant. For this person, hunger for power can become an insatiable desire; like spraying water in the most arid desert lands, you always need more. Any hope of genuine joy or gratitude from the fruits of financial success often quickly evaporate for this person.

On the other hand, those who ultimately seek comfort do not struggle with enjoying the fruits of their labor. They tend to search for experiences and a certain type of freedom. But instead of freedom to become part of God’s redemptive mission for the world, they desire freedom from constraints or having to do anything in particular. Ironically, when great wealth is achieved, it can actually feel paralyzing. As Jessie O’Neill documents in her book The Golden Ghetto, “Prison walls can be constructed of infinite possibilities as well as a severe limitation of choices.”

The last of the primary money motivators is the need for approval. For this person, net worth equals self-worth. The irony is that the more money she accumulates, the more insecure she becomes. This irony an be seen in the mindset of an inheritor of great wealth. She is constantly questioning the true motives of others. She wonders, Do people appreciate and like me for who I am (out of genuine love, respect, or admiration), or are they simply being nice to me because of my money?

Not surprisingly, the false idols that money promises to deliver fail us and, more often than not, the underlying desire actually increases along with the person’s balance sheet. Addiction may be the best way to describe the situation. Despite unparalled levels of prosperity in America, we feel trapped by an endless pattern of emotional distress in which the apparent object of our desire only intensifies the desire itself. Hence, you see debt crisis we face as a nation both at the level of the individual and the federal government.

Storing Up Eternal Treasures

So what is the answer? We cannot hope to simply remove these disproportionate desires. As Augustine would say, we are made to love, and what we love defines us. Instead, we need to fall in love with God’s kingdom above all else. We need to be motivated by “treasures in heaven” as Christ describes it (Matt. 6:20).

And how do we do that? Randy Alcorn, in his great little book, The Treasure Principle, relays the following anecdote: “I’ve heard people say, ‘I want more of a heart for missions.’ I always respond, ‘Jesus tells you how to get it. Put your money in missions—and in your church and the poor—and your heart will follow.’”

In A Christmas Carol, Dickens showed us Ebeneezer Scrooge’s transformation from heartless indifference toward the suffering of others to overflowing generosity and cherishing every single encounter with anyone in his path. Not unlike George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, Scrooge was profoundly changed by gaining an eternal perspective. It revealed, as C. S. Lewis put it, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

The implication is that every moment truly matters and pursuit of earthly riches is seen for what it is: trivial and fleeting. May we, too, be graced with proper reordering of our loves that redeems our relationship with money.

Chad S. Hamilton