Pastors & Elders

For over ten years I have been convinced that New Testament churches, churches planted by the Apostles, were led by a plurality of elders—who provided oversight (overseers [bishops in the AV]) and served as shepherds (pastors) of the people of God.  Acts 20:17-28 provides the clearest example of this when Paul calls for the elders of the church at Ephesus and then makes it clear that these men provide the oversight and feed, care for and shepherd the church of God.  See also Acts 15:4 where "church" is singular and elders is plural.

This plurality of elders is often called a council or board (I prefer team).  Elders have as their primary focus the ministry of the Word of God (Acts 6:4). The elders are responsible for governing the church, teaching the Word and tending the flock of God in this church. They focus on the spiritual needs and development of the congregation whereas deacons concentrate on the physical needs of the church.  Together elders and deacons serve the congregation in the fulfillment of the Great Commission to the glory of God.

It bothers me that I see something in the New Testament and we, Berean Baptist, are ignoring what the Bible presents.

When asked the question: ‘Why isn’t Berean led by a plurality of elders like the New Testament presents?’ What should I say? I can’t in good conscience argue against something I definitely see throughout the epistles.  In 1 Tim. 4:14 a council of elders laid hands on Timothy. In James 5:14 the church is to call for the elders.  In 1 Tim. 5:17 Paul refers to elders who labor in preaching and teaching the Word of God. In Phil. 1:1, there is a plurality of overseers.  Plurality protects the congregation from a rogue leader.

I believe a team of elders all approved by the congregation needs to lead Berean.  The council would be made up of lay elders and pastors. Pastors are ordained elders employed by the church; whereas, lay elders are men who meet the biblical qualifications of an overseer in 1 Tim. 3:2-7 whom the church does not pay. (Assistant pastors are men preparing to serve as pastors and serve to extend the ministry of the pastors). I believe the council should consist of 5, 7 or 9 members with the number of lay elders always outnumbering the number of pastors serving on the team. A council of 5 elders would include the senior pastor, the senior associate pastor (Steve Wilson presently) and three other biblically qualified men from the congregation, who can teach the Word of God, would volunteer to serve as elders.  A council of 7 could include another one of the ordained pastors. The elders should not ordain an assistant pastor if they do not think he is ready to serve as an elder (1 Tim. 5:22).

The ability to teach the Word of God is the qualification that most distinguishes an elder from a deacon which is why the congregation needs both offices and why each office has a different focus and responsibility.  Elders (both lay and vocational) concentrate on the spiritual direction and needs of the flock (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17).

I believe we need to move forward with constitutional changes to fully incorporate what the New Testament presents into our form of governance.  While we would remain congregational in our form of government; the council of elders would collectively serve to lead the congregation; while the deacons would stay focused on the physical needs of the church (both the people and the facilities).  Ultimately, the authority remains with the flock as the entity that approves (or disapproves) those who serve, the annual budget, expenditures not covered in the budget, new members and missionaries, church discipline, and changes to the church constitution.

What are your questions? Please email me.

The Bible: God's Holy Word

We believe the Bible to be God’s Word which reveals the only hope for humanity, Jesus Christ. Moreover, we believe Scripture to be entirely true in every sense because its author is God, who Himself is Truth. (Tit. 2:13, Is. 65:16, Heb. 4:12)

We believe that Scripture is God’s special revelation to humanity in a unified narrative that leads to Jesus Christ, our Creator, Redeemer, Judge, and Lord, and it has profound wisdom for the modern world. Ultimately, the Lord Jesus Christ is the point of the story of the Bible. (Luke 24:27)

We believe this epic story began with God creating the heavens and earth and will culminate with God creating a new heaven and new earth where His people will dwell with Him forever.  This holy book shows us just how unholy we are, how Holy our God is, and how Jesus Christ’s sacrifice makes believers holy. (Ps. 51:5, Is. 6:3, Heb. 10:10) If you miss the Gospel, you miss the entire point of the Book. We further believe that if your faith isn't in the finished work of Christ—His perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection—you will die in your sins. (1 Cor. 15:1-4, Eph. 2:8-9, Heb. 9:26, John 8:24)

We believe that every Word in the original manuscripts behind every book in the canon of Scripture was God-breathed without error, and is, therefore, useful for teaching, correction, reproof, and training in righteous living, such that the man or woman of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

We believe that the canon of Scripture has been closed for over 1,900 years and consists of 39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament books originally written in the languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  Furthermore, we believe nearly 40 authors wrote in their own language and dialect according to their customs and culture, yet were simultaneously verbally carried along by the Holy Spirit such that humans wrote God's Word. (2 Pet. 1:21) This work of the Holy Spirit took place over 1,600 years, on three different continents, through shepherds, farmers, judges, kings, prophets, priests, fishermen, government officials, craftsmen, and even a doctor.

We believe that God did not stop His work of giving us His Word in inspiration but continued to ensure that accurate copies of the original manuscripts were preserved such that not even the smallest letter or stroke of His Word will ever pass away.  (Mt. 5:18, Mark 13:31)

We believe God Sovereignly worked not only in inspiration and preservation but also in the discovery and revelation of the canonical books.  We deny any suggestion that the church conspired to choose which books it wanted in the Bible or that inspired books are missing or lost.

We believe the Bible to be the sole authority for the church and our final authority for faith, practice, and conduct.  We are commanded to read the Bible both privately and publically, and it must be the primary source document for all teaching and preaching in the church; we must preach the Word. (Ps. 1:2, 1 Thess. 5:27, 2 Tim. 2:4)

We believe that as believers, we should hide God’s Word in our hearts that we might not sin against Him and that His Word should be a lamp to guide our feet and a light for our path. (Ps. 119)

We believe that both copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original text. (2 Pet. 3:16) Furthermore, we believe that because the Bible is God’s Word, it is to be both believed and obeyed by all who profess Christ as Savior.

Finally, we believe that we are completely reliant upon the Spirit of God to give us understanding as we study Scripture and hear it proclaimed. (1 Cor. 2:6-16) Without the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we can never understand the mind of God as it's been revealed in His Word.

Enough is Enough Why the Church Has to Stop Ignoring Abusive Men

Presently, there is an article trending on Facebook by Gary Thomas titled ‘Enough is Enough Why the Church Has to Stop Enabling Abusive Men,’ and I need to speak to the article because I love and care about my sisters in Christ in Berean. In this short article, Gary Thomas describes situations in which Christian women are experiencing abusive behavior from their husbands and are remaining in the marriage because of the ‘long-standing Christian stigma’ associated with divorce.  Gary writes, “I recently spoke at a long-standing North American woman’s conference and was overwhelmed by the quantity and horrific nature of things wives have to put up with in their marriages.”  Gary argues that it would be more sinful to stay in the marriage than to be guilty of the sin of divorce. He purports that the evangelical church has put such a premium on marriage that Christian women feel stuck and sustain abuse from their husbands that they should never have to experience. Gary describes a situation in which a husband told his wife and baby to get out of the car on the side of a busy highway like I-95 and the woman’s internal struggle with putting up with that kind of behavior or pursuing a divorce.

Let me go on the record and say very clearly: I do believe there are situations in which a spouse is justified in leaving a marriage; I do NOT believe any spouse should have to experience abuse in their marriage; husbands do not have ANY biblical right to abuse their wives. Husbands are to love their wives—even as Christ loved the church. If you are such a man, repent. If you are such a woman and are experiencing abuse, seek help immediately from the church office. Sometimes it may even be necessary to call 911 and get to a safe place (separate). I did not say ‘divorce.’ What Gary does not address is the time between separation and divorce. Divorce is a last resort, not the next option. Separation is critical to get out of an abusive situation. In the article, the author did not address two important points that I believe are essential to consider.

First, the author does not address who defines abuse. If I tell you “you suck’ or “you are stupid,” are you the victim of verbal or emotional abuse? Any spouse who has been told “you suck” or called the b-word should not for a moment put up with that from their husband or wife. The victim must confront this type of sinful behavior. Sometimes this may even require that you call 911 in the case of an emergency and criminal behavior.  Sin cannot be left unchecked.  And if it does not stop, the spouse should seek help from a pastor, a family member, perhaps an attorney, and/or church office. Someone from the office staff (a pastor) can even help you with the complexity of how to address the sinful behavior without making things worse. Your church is a resource for you. It will help you get the needed assistance. Husbands abusing their wives should be held accountable for their sinful behavior, even to the point of church discipline.  And in rare situations, this may require the involvement of the magistrate for criminal and unlawful behavior. If the husband denies being abusive, it may be necessary to follow the protocol of Matthew 18:15-18. Defining what is and isn’t verbal abuse may require a panel of church members (2 or 3 witnesses v. 16) but physical abuse and endangerment always requires immediate action for the safety and well-being of the victim and children.

Second, the author does not address when the spouse is considered free to divorce. Certainly, everyone can agree that time must be given to the abusive spouse to repent and for God to work, and during this period of separation both spouses must focus on God, their marriage, their children, the church, prayer, the Word of God and reconciliation. To engage in any type of interest in a potential new spouse during this time of separation would be inherently sinful. Restoration and reconciliation must be the focus. The Bible does NOT speak to how long that period must be before a divorce is permitted. In the state of NC, it is 12 months. Twelve months is a long time. I believe if a pastor was involved in trying to facilitate reconciliation and repentance for 12 months and the abusive husband (or wife) would not cooperate with the work of the Lord, a person would be free to divorce based on the hardness of the heart of the abusive spouse.

It has been my experience that in many cases when one spouse starts to insult and call the other nasty names, the other spouse retaliates and both become sinfully abusive.   Both spouses must realize that at the point in which you respond in kind, you lose the moral high ground of claiming you are the victim and are no longer following Christ.

Finally, there seems to be confusion on what it means to forgive. Forgiveness is not the acceptance of sinful behavior. We can forgive an individual for their actions without condoning their actions. The expectation to forgive is NOT a call to remain in a legitimately abusive situation.  In an emergency call 911; seek immediate help. When the Apostle Paul was being whipped and abused for the cause of the gospel, he was able to forgive the ones whipping him, but he left the abusive situation and went to a different city. If your spouse is hitting you (in addition to calling 911) someone from the church office (a pastor) needs to know about it. Your church wants to help you. To be a Christian spouse is not a call to be a whipping post for an out of control husband (or wife).

If you are the victim of abuse in your marriage, the first step is to protect yourself and your children. Your second step is to let your spouse know you believe that what he or she is doing is abusive and if it doesn’t stop you will have to separate. Your third step is to let your pastor know that your marriage needs help. Any pastor worth his title of shepherd will help his sheep get out of harm’s way. Your final steps in this process are to hold the moral high ground, pray, and actively participate in gospel-centered counseling. Divorce is positively the last resort, but may eventually be necessary.  If you are in doubt, seek help today. In an emergency call 911 and get to safety. If you need help, the church office can help you get the resources you need. 

Illogical and Incoherent Thinking and Theology

This week, a church member sent me a link to this article: “Americans Love God and the Bible, Are Fuzzy on the Details.” In this article, Lifeway, a division of the Southern Baptist Convention, surveyed thousands of people to determine if they agree, disagree or are neutral to certain statements.  The results are disconcerting and reflect problems in the way people think in America.  For example, researchers identified that “7 in 10 say there’s only one true God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—two-thirds say God accepts the worship of all faiths.”  These kinds of answers reflect confusion and a lack of clarity. It seems Americans no longer feel the need to be coherent in their thinking.  The same person often voices ideas that are incompatible and conflicting. Christians must recognize that our God is not the author of confusion. We must be able to articulate what we believe to be true and why in a way that is defensible and reasonable. Let me give you one example of what I mean.

Orthodox Christians believe that Christ Jesus is the only way to the Father. We believe that when Jesus said he was ‘the way’ he meant ‘the way’ and not a way. Christians often say things that do not reflect confidence in this truth.  In reality, we often hope in some crazy way that there is a backdoor of good works or decent living so that our Mormon neighbor or Muslim coworker doesn’t have to go to hell.  We don’t realize the theological implications of our dualistic thinking.

If there is a plan B or plan C to salvation, that is to say, multiple roads that all lead to heaven; then we must ask this question: ‘Why did God send his only begotten Son to a Roman cross?' 'Why did Jesus have to endure God’s wrath for the sins of the whole world, if there is another way to heaven?’ If I say ‘yes’ Muslims can find God through the Islamic faith, then why did Jesus have to suffer? Why did he have to die? Why was he whipped, scarred, beaten, abused, and mocked? It doesn’t make sense. And it needs to make sense. It must make sense because the very character and nature of the Creator God are at stake. If I hold to a theological position that is conflicting and incompatible, my God is more like a human and less like the Sovereign Divine being of the Universe.

When I explain why Christ had to die and when I articulate the reality that Christ perfectly kept the law of God to be the ultimate Lamb of God, I am presenting tenants of truth that serve as foundational stones to a theological system that is dependent upon particular truths undergirding each other.  Jesus gave his life as an act of love from the entire Godhead. Jesus experienced incompressible wrath from God to satisfy God’s righteous indignation against sin. These ideas are not conflicting; they complement each other.

Check your thinking. Demand nothing but the best from yourself. Think about what you believe to be true and insist upon a system of faith that is rational, defendable, coherent, Christo-centric and Biblically sound. To be Christian, it must be 100% in compliance with the Apostle’s doctrine of the first-century church as revealed in the NT.

Is Isaiah 54:17 meant for Christians today?

Is Isaiah 54:17 meant for Christians today? Can we say no weapon formed against us will prosper? I was asked this question via email and here is my answer:

No Isaiah 54:17 is not a promise that individual Christians can claim and somehow think that the bullet will not be effective against them. Let me remind you that God permitted Stephen to die of stoning in Acts chapter 7. So the final stone that knocked the life out of him did prosper. In fact, nearly all the apostles died for the faith--some weapon meant to harm them prospered.  Read the devotion on this web page:

Now notice how there is some truth packed throughout the page, but the author did not consider to whom was the promise given. In Isaiah 54 the promise is given to corporate Israel.  Notice how the web page author claims nothing will harm the believer. How is she using ‘harm’?  Is she using 'harm' in the sense that no matter what happens to your physical body you are secure in Christ? Or is she using it like the lion will not be able to rip the arm off of the Christian in the Roman coliseums Nero?  The believer is secure in Christ, but Christ did not promise that a believer's body will not be destroyed or harmed. Christ’s body was crucified, and he died. Furthermore, he told his apostles to expect the same for themselves. Read Matthew 24 slowly and carefully and remember Jesus was talking to followers.

We know weapons formed against Christians are being effective in Iraq. Even today as I am writing this note Christians are being put to death for their faith in Christ.  Are you familiar with the ministry Voice of the Martyrs? ( )  Spend some time on that website and tell me weapons are not prospering in the hands of those who would seek to kill and destroy Christians.

If you want a promise to claim that applies to you, if you believe, read John 10.  John 10 is packed full of promises from Christians can claim, and John 10 provides clarity as to who genuine sheep are.  For they hear his voice and follow the true shepherd and bishop of our souls.

The promise you have as a Christians is the promise of life found in 2 Timothy 1:1!

Did John the Baptist Have to be Saved Since He was Filled with the Holy Spirit?

Is there evidence in scripture that John the Baptist needed salvation like everyone else though he was filled with the Holy Ghost from the womb?

It is Luke who tells us that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit ‘even from birth’ (Luke 1:15), which could cause someone to wonder if John was exempt from the need to believe the gospel for the forgiveness of sins. There are several evidences from scripture that in spite of being filled with the Holy Spirit, John still needed to be saved.

First, the scripture says that John was filled with the Holy Spirit it does not say that John was sealed with the Holy Spirit. Paul teaches us in Ephesians 1:13 that those who believe the truth of the gospel are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.  The Greek word behind the English ‘sealed’ is quite literally ‘to set a seal upon, to mark with a seal’. The next verse goes on to teach us that this action of God in marking the believer as His own is the equivalent of God making a down payment on the believer so as to show his intent of completing the redemption of those who belong to Him. So John was ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit, but nothing in the text indicates that he was ‘sealed’ with the Holy Spirit.

Second, John is not exempt from the “all” of Romans 3:23—‘for all have sinned (including John), and come short of the glory of God.’ When Paul writes ‘there is none righteous no not one’ (Rom 3:10), John is included in that statement. In fact, we seem to see John’s own understanding of his need for the forgiveness of sin when Jesus approaches John for baptism in Matthew 3 and John is hesitant to proceed. John responds, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Third, while John was filled with the Holy Spirit, the wrath of God still abided on him until he believed in Christ (John 3:36).  Certainly one could suppose that being filled with the Holy Spirit would lead to John believing the truth, but nonetheless, John still had to believe. No one is exempt from the requirement to believe in order to be saved. Those who do not obey the gospel imperative to ‘believe’ will experience the wrath of God (2 Thess 1:8).

The fourth reason from scripture that John still needed to be saved comes from John 3 and Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. Jesus told Nicodemus very plainly that everyone (including John the Baptist) had to be born again (or born from above) in order to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Again, being filled with Spirit in order to be the forerunner of Jesus is not the same as being born again.

Fifth, John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets (Luke 16:16), and the Holy Spirit’s activity among the people of God in the Old Testament, oftentimes called “theocratic anointing’, was temporary in nature and usually designed to empower the recipient for a specific task. The scripture is replete with these events: Bezalel is anointed with the Spirit to build the Tabernacle (Ex 31:2-3); Judges such as Gideon and Samson are given power (Judges 6:34; 14:6); and of course, both Saul and David are filled with the Holy Spirit as kings of Israel (1 Sam 10:10; 16:13). The Holy Spirit rather dramatically departed from Saul (1 Sam 16:14), and David pleads with the Lord not to take His Spirit from him (Ps 51:11), indicating the tenuous and temporal aspect of the Old Testament ‘filling’ of the Spirit.

Finally, nothing in the scripture indicates how long this state of being filled with the Spirit lasted and to what degree it impacted John’s actions, but we see the fallen nature of John when he is in prison. In Matthew 11, we see John asking a question that did not come from the Holy Spirit’s leadership.  Matthew writes, “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3).  Evidently being filled with the Holy Spirit does not keep one from doubting. John’s doubts unequivocally show us his vulnerable humanity.

In spite of being filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, John was born a member of Adam’s fallen race, and all who are in Adam die (1 Cor. 15:22). John still needed to be born again, marked as God’s own by being sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise and placed in the body of Christ in order to be saved from sin and the wrath of God. Ultimately, John had to believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world (even John’s), which he seems to do in John 1:29 when he prophecies of the atoning death of the Son of God.

Who did Christ die for and what did he accomplish?

Join me at the deep end of the pool.

Please take the time to watch the video again and listen to the message Elder D.J. Ward is communicating for it is certainly biblical! Christ did not die to create the potential for souls to be redeemed. Christ died to redeem souls—the souls of the elect. He came to save his people from their sins (Mt. 1:21). On the cross Christ accomplished the redemption of the elect. Now before you get too excited about that word ‘elect’ remember Jesus said very clearly and plainly, ‘All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out’ (John 6:37).  Do not for even a moment create a fictional non-existent person who is NOT elect but desires to be saved with all their heart. That person has not, does not, and will not exist. Apart from God’s grace the heart of a sinner will never desire Christ—no not even one (Rom. 3, Eph. 2).

Does this mean that the atonement of Christ is limited to only the elect?

For 2000 years the church has wrestled with this hard concept. Freewill Baptists would argue that Christ died for all humans past, present, and future, but in the end salvation is left up to each person. Ultimately, this means that Christ’s death may have been in vain—dying only to create the possibility of redeeming a people, but not actually redeeming anyone. Particular Baptists rejected this suggestion as absurd and argued like Elder D. J. Ward that Christ actually accomplished something on the cross. Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) may have been one of the first Baptists who attempted to balance these two ideas—particular redemption and general redemption or limited atonement and unlimited atonement. Fuller taught that Christ’s death was sufficient for the redemption of the whole world, but efficient only for the elect of God. In this way, Fuller suggested that ‘yes’ Christ tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9), but because it was not efficient for all—everyone would not be saved in the end (often called universalism) (see 2 Peter 2:1). Fuller taught that the application of the atonement was limited to only the elect, but he argued for a crucial distinction. He also taught that Christ’s death was sufficient to satisfy the wrath of God for the sins of the whole world (see 1 John 2:2). Fuller’s position is most appealing because of the degree to which it reconciles two truths both taught in Scripture.
Some came to identify Fuller’s position as ‘evangelical Calvinism’ which I think is a great label if a label is necessary. 

What are your questions?