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The quality of its leadership is one of the most important criteria for the growth and health of any organization, and that includes the church. St. Paul wanted congregations to be slow and cautious in lifting people up and investing authority in them. Bad leaders can damage an organization, perhaps cripple it permanently. Even worse are leaders who go off-message and spread false teachings. That can cause eternal spiritual harm to people. St. Paul wrote three letters to some younger... Read More
They ARE the church
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I spent my spring break chaperoning a choir trip with 50 Christian teenagers. While it meant six nights with a far later bedtime than I usually prefer, it was also a great opportunity to thank God for this awesome group—and think more about the role God has for them in his family.  Encourage them to lead now. It’s a (grammatical) pet peeve of mine when people tell teens they are the future of the church. Every person who is in... Read More
When church hurts
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Church at its best is magnificent: the Word is taught in its truth and purity, ideas about worship and ministry are freely exchanged, leaders serve in humility, and abundant love meets everyone at the door. A good many of us have also witnessed church at its worst: when hurt, not love, seems never ending, grudges fester, and walking through the door isn’t a joy but a chore.  At those times the army of evil works overtime to cloud judgment. I... Read More
Hurt by the church
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As I’ve made my rounds in life, I’ve run into some hurting people. None with festering wounds quite like those hurt by their church. The circumstances vary, but when they needed it most, the ministry of God’s grace in its various forms was withheld from them by their church. They were disfellowshiped, shunned, made to humiliate themselves publicly, denied sacred rites, or given an irrelevant penance to perform. These are high hurdles for the weakest people to clear in order... Read More
Fighting in church?
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If anything drives suspicious unbelievers away from the fellowship of a congregation, it is the perception of hypocrisy on the part of the members. Supposedly a church is portraying a superior way to live. Supposedly congregations and their leaders have figured out divine secrets to a happier life. Outsiders assume that church people consider themselves more moral than the average Joe. So when sin and Satan invade the sanctuary, news gets around. In the Macedonian city of Philippi, the unreconciled... Read More