Philosophy of Ministry
Its Biblical Principles
These are the overarching, unchanging, trans-cultural teaching of the Word of God on the ministry of the church. We owe a great debt to the elders of Bethlehem Baptist Church in articulating this shared philosophy of ministry.
The church exists to glorify God (Ephesians 3:21). The church is the redeemed people of God placed into the Body of Christ between Pentecost and the 2nd Coming of Christ. The church is also the people of God gathered together in localities: to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) as the Kingdom of God in this world (Colossians 1:13-14) and to meet regularly together in an outward worship that expresses inward and spiritual truths (John 4:23-24; Hebrews 10:19-25; 12:18-29). See further the section in the doctrinal portion on the church.
The church has three major purposes:
- Exaltation – Our doxological purpose. Exaltation is all we do in terms of pursuing God in worship. This is the overarching purpose of the church. The church exists to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
- Edification – Our discipleship purpose. Edification is all we do to know God better, to please him in every facet of life, to learn, to believe, to understand and to obey the Scriptures fully and to love God and one another in each sphere of life as we grow in Christ-likeness.
- Evangelism – Our declarative purpose. Evangelism is all we do to proclaim the gospel to every people group in order to see all of God’s elect brought into the Kingdom.
The Bible is the sole, sufficient and supreme authority for the church (2 Timothy 3:14-17). The Bible is how Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd, King and Head of the church mediates His authority (1 Timothy 1:17). The Bible then will be the subject matter of our faith, our worship, our teaching, our preaching, our evangelism, our edification, our admonition, and our counsel. Further, to be truly Bible-centered we must also be Christ-centered. All that we do with the Scriptures must bring us to God Himself.
The mission and ministry of the church is carried on, not by fleshly strength, but by divine enablement through the grace of spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:1-16; Romans 12:1-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1–14:39). The gifts may be broadly categorized as public ministry and personal ministry gifts (1 Peter 4:10-11), are to be exercised for the glory of God, under the rule of God and for the good of the church (1 Corinthians 14:12).
The primary gifts a believer has define the primary sphere of their ministry. That does not exclude other ministries, but it is primarily how the Holy Spirit is enabling that person to serve God and build-up the Body. A person’s godly character, talents, abilities and experience all help give outward shape to the inward enablement.
A church knows what ministries God is enabling her for by the mix of spiritual gifts given her in her people.
God has given the oversight or governing of His gathered congregations to a body or council of men known as elders (Acts 14:21-23; 15:2; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). These men are also called shepherds (pastors) and overseers (bishops) (Acts 20:17, 27-28; Ephesians 4:11). The elders are to oversee (govern) the church through the shepherding care of the church (1 Peter 5:2).
The church is to be shepherded by a plurality of godly men qualified according to the Scriptures. All elders share the authority equally and together. No elder is above the others in authority. No elder exercises independent authority.
The primary model for the elders is that of a shepherd. Jesus is the Chief Shepherd, and thus is truly “the pastor” of the church. We are all under-shepherds serving the Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). All pastor-elders shepherd the flock. As soon as there is a plurality established, each shepherd should be assigned a smaller group to care for, know well, to instruct privately and to be accountable for (Acts 20:28-30).
Since all elders must be given to or be able to teach, then the teaching of the Word of God and the responsibility for the doctrine of the church is entrusted to the elders (1 Timothy 3:2; 4:13,16; 5:17; Acts 20:27). Some elders will be more gifted in teaching and thus will bear a greater burden for the public and private ministry of the Word.
In the church, elders who rule or govern well may be supported vocationally. Among those who are to be supported, special effort is to be extended to support those who work hard at preaching and teaching (1 Peter 5:17-18). Therefore there will be elders who support themselves (Acts 20:34, is an example) and those who are supported partially or in full by the church. Priority for vocational support of elders is to be given first to those whose gifts and role is that of preaching and teaching and then to those who gift and role is that of ruling (governing, administrating).
Each elder in the Body will have a unique blend of gifts, abilities, character and experience. These unique blends mix together to provide stability, breadth of perspective and long-term continuity to the oversight of the church. Therefore, in a Biblically functioning eldership, individual weaknesses should be offset by the union of a plurality of strengths. From God’s giving of men to the church whose gifts are stronger emerges the responsibility to identify roles among the elders. The Bible clearly identifies at least two roles among the elders that are to be distinguished by their function, their relation to the elders and their vocational emphasis. These roles are preaching-teaching and administrating. The primary objective of the ministry of the elders is established in Ephesians 4:11-16. We are to equip each believer for their work of ministry and holiness so that the Body is built up into the standard of maturity established by Christ. The criteria for maturity is stability in doctrine, discernment of error, truth spoken in love, and the full exercise of all the interrelated and interdependent ministries represented by the people.
The ministry of the elders involves no less than the following activities:
- The studying of the Word of God to be believed, understood, and obeyed. This study should develop a growing body of doctrine personally and corporately.
- The public preaching and teaching of the Word of God to the congregation as a whole. This public ministry of the Word must involve the regular, systematic exposition of extended portions of the Word of God with heart-piercing, life-changing applications. It must, as needed, also expose error and the prevailing dangers threatening the church.
- The private teaching, exhorting and admonishing by the Word of God in one-on-one counseling and small group interaction. This ministry must interact with individuals, families and flocks in the real problems of life with holiness as its chief aim.
- The proclaiming of the gospel to the lost. This may be done in public forums, in church settings or in private discourse with a view to fulfilling the great commission.
- Extended prayer and communion with God because prayer is the visible engine of ministry and to cultivate a genuine passion for God.
- The exercise of the spiritual care of the congregation as a community together and as a flock in all the providential dealings of God. This is to be done on one level by every member and, additionally, by the elders.
- The administration of the church in all that is required to oversee its ministries and activities. This includes the delegation of much day-to-day management and tasks to deacons and other people gifted for those tasks.
- The incorporation of new members into the community of the church and the equipping of the people for their work of service.
- The leading in the observance of the ordinances.
Its Personal Manifestation
This is how the above principles are fleshed out in the matrix of our church culture, spiritual gifts, abilities and experience. It speaks to what motivates us and what methodologies are consistent with the Word and flesh out the gospel in our time in redemptive history.
By God’s grace and through His Word, we will cultivate in the hearts of God’s people a passion for the supremacy of God magnified in love for Him and manifested in love for one another.
- Savoring the supremacy of God – Our vision is to magnify God as the all-satisfying object of the believer’s life in worship and service, here and forever.
- Studying the Word of God – Our vision is to work out both the large picture and the immediate texts in Holy Spirit enabled exposition and application in the public and private ministry of the Word of God.
- Shaping the people of God – Our vision is to see minds, affections, and wills transformed by the Word of God so that God is magnified by an obeying faith in every sphere of life.
- Spreading the gospel of God – Our vision is to see the gospel proclaimed to all the people groups so that God is glorified in every tribe, language, and people group.
These are the values that drive and motivate us in ministry. We have taken these from a Mission and Vision Statement Pastor Russ spent 18 months developing. Even down to the wording, it has largely been influenced by Dr. John Piper, Dr. John MacArthur and Pastor Dick Lucas. We have thought through it again together in our present ministry context and the unique mission and ministry of Clearcreek Chapel.
Values Relating to Spiritual Atmosphere
- Magnifying the worth of God in everything that we do.
- Going hard after God as an all-satisfying goal in Himself.
- Being shaped by the Scripture as the fully sufficient and trustworthy revelation of God.
- Making prayer the visible engine of all our efforts in worship and ministry.
- Being humble and teachable by the Word of God so that we are constantly being stretched and sharpened in our grasp of God’s Word and truth.
- Recognizing the role suffering, self-denial and self-discipline must have in refining and maturing for effective ministry.
Values Relating to our Life Together
- Increasingly visible, authentic, practical ways of loving one another.
- Eager openness to new people and organized efforts to incorporate them in the life and ministry of the church.
- The importance of small groups (Flocks) for building caring, faith-sustaining relationships and accountability.
- Building lasting friendships as partnerships in cultivating holiness, ministry, and maturity.
- Giving attention and emphasis to bringing up children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
- Developing youth through a discipleship that excites and equips them for mature Christian living.
- Providing Bible teaching for adults in a class setting that stimulates Bible reading, memory, and learning.
- Building strong marriages that model the relationship between Christ and the church.
- Emphasizing the mentoring role of the mature saints.
- Being engaged with skilled elders and Christian leaders who sharpen, stretch, challenge and further our understanding of God and His Word.
Values Relating to Corporate Worship
- A public worship form that communicates the supremacy of God in all of life.
- A sustained sense of lingering worship connected to fervent Biblical exposition and practical application attended by the unction of the Holy Spirit.
- Music in our worship which is both God-centered and Godward and is an expression of the diversity of believers among us.
- Being a singing people who, by the Word and the Spirit, make a joyful noise to the Lord.
- Understanding that in singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, we are to edify, encourage and admonish one another.
- Being vulnerable and transparent in our imperfections so as to encourage candor and openness.
Values Relating to Church Ministry
- The spiritual shepherding and governance by the elders.
- The diaconal care of our people and service-related ministries.
- The importance of Biblical Counseling for all of life and particularly in the life and ministry of Clearcreek Chapel.
- Use of all the spiritual gifts represented by the members of the congregation in ministries of worship, discipleship, service and evangelism.
- Efficient administrative structures shaped by the Word and sustained by prayer.
- Openness and integrity in the wise use of the financial resources given by God’s people.
- Full participation in the stewardship of proportional giving by every household.
Values Relating to Christian Mission
- Continuous evangelism through the network of relationships God has brought us into.
- Periodic evangelism through special events designed to make contact with the community and create opportunity for the gospel message.
- Regular evangelism through the public preaching of the Word in the context of the worship of God’s people.
- Continual development of our Biblical Counseling Center as a place to train effective Biblical counselors, offer hope and help to sin-laden people.
- Enabling people to be salt and light at all levels of society.
- Supporting missionaries locally, nationally and globally who affirm our doctrinal distinctives and evangelize the lost, edify God’s people, or equip God’s people for ministry.
- Supporting ministries who serve to support and strengthen the work of God worldwide.
- Sharing with other churches our vision and doctrine to encourage their efforts in Biblical ministry.