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Church Leadership

The Three Essential Priorities for the Church

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
When we take careful view of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, we see three areas of responsibility that we are called to do. John 15 expresses these three priorities all together beautifully, and I list several other passages that support these essential priorities, just turn to a concordance and see for yourself. Out of these priorities, we can take God's Word and contextualize it to the streets and to the direct needs of the people, so they can come to the knowledge of our Lord.
What is the role of your Church?
 
            The church has many roles and duties that have been expounded in Scripture and have been found by the experience of ministry. For example, the Bible says nothing of youth ministry, or children's ministry specifically, so does this mean we are not to do such things? Or do we respond to the call to make disciples and take the imperative directive from our Lord and contextualize it to our situation? The Bible is clear on our responsibility, we are to look at those responsibilities and make them work in our context of life and the needs of the community. For example, in youth ministry several years ago, I started a skateboard ministry to reach out to the neighborhood youth, and it was an extreme success. I took the command of the Bible, and then saw the need of the youth to skate in a city that outlawed it. I received a variance from the city to proceed, and the call was fulfilled, and the need was fulfilled, this is called contextualization. 

            When we take careful view of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, we see three areas of responsibility that we are called to do. John 15 expresses these three priorities all together beautifully, and I list several other passages that support these essential priorities, just turn to a concordance and see for yourself. Out of these priorities, we can take God's Word and contextualize it to the streets and to the direct needs of the people, so they can come to the knowledge of our Lord.  

            We see from Scripture, the importance and mandate of our relationship and intimacy to our Creator. The only way we can remain in that relationship and share His intimacy is to do just that, remain. We remain in Him by His nourishment, and not of ourselves, not of our thinking and sense, and not just emotional devotion. No, we need rational commitment that will have emotion with it but not driven by it. Our nourishment will be set by the effort and time we put in it as with just about anything else. And the calls and priorities the Lord has for us will be greeted with anticipation and eagerness to build His Kingdom. 

Priority One: Commitment to Christ 

            To Love, Worship, and Praise God is our prime commitment and call from our Lord. Here are a few Scriptures testifying to this first priority:

Joshua 1:8:                "you shall meditate on it day and night"

Psalm 1:                     "His delight is in the law of the Lord"

Psalm 63:1:               "O God, Thou art my God: I shall seek Thee earnestly"

Psalm 42:1:               "As the deer pants for the water, so my soul pants for Thee, O God"

Matt. 6:33:                  "Seek yee first the kingdom of God and His righteousness"

Mark 1:16:                  "Follow Me"

Mark 8:34:                  "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him..."

Mark 12:30 :              "Love the Lord with all..."

John 15:1-11:             "Abide in Me"

John 17:3 :                 "That they may know Thee"

Romans 8:29 :           "predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son"

Romans 12:1,2:         "Present your bodies to God"

I Cor. 10:31:              "do all to the glory of God"

II Cor. 5:15:                 "He died for all, that they who live should live for Him"

Phil. 1:21:                    "For to me, to live is Christ"

Rev. 4:10, 11:             "(They) will worship Him, saying, 'Worthy art Thou, O Lord..."

Rev. 5:12:                   "Worthy is the Lamb" 

           The magnitude of these and many more Scriptures are almost overwhelming to our efforts and His call, but are still clear for us to understand and obey!  

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. [This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." {John 15:5-11} 

"Remain" in this passage means to abide, to be steadfast and sure of our Lord and who He is, and who we are in Him. The imagery is perfect, as a vine needs the nourishment throughout its whole system from roots to leaves, and without any one of the main parts, the whole vine will die. It is also with us, when we are not in Christ, we will whither and die. Only when we are rooted in Christ and are receiving our nutrients from Him can we grow and thrive!

The church is us, the people of His pasture, in the care of His majesty. We are joined to Christ, and this is the true church. Thus He is our Lord, purifier, overseer, boss, and Savior. If we remain in Him, then we fulfill the call He gives us and the nourishment that flows from Him to us, will then flow to those around us. As we remain in Him with a surrendered will, we will grow and will receive purification. We must realize the gravity of our situation when we are not in Christ, or when we turn our will away from Him. When we are the fruitless branches, we will be subject to pruning, which could mean suffering and trials brought on by our stubborn nature. He must purify, for He is holy and calls us to holiness. Let us not be the branch that is thrown away, the dead wood that sits in a pew and does nothing, except to receive salvation.

We could not have been saved by our own efforts or reborn to receive our salvation and grace. We could neither receive nor exercise the gifts for His purpose, this is nothing of our doing. When we bow to our own will over our Lord's, then we will receive our self-inflicted damnation, strong language for a strong opposition and will. Our call is to seek holiness, not to seek ourselves.

We must abide in Christ as the principle priority of our life and work. Without this sense of purpose, we will fail to our schemes and worst laid plans that will derail us from His holiness and will. Without our Lord's presence and leading, we cannot do anything, we could not have been created, we could not live, and we could not work and serve, nothing. The only true good thing we can ever do in life is to remain in Christ. Then the fruits will flow, but they cannot unless we are in Him. No work can be good unless it is flowing from our Savior. If we start off good and growing in Christ then forsake Him with our busyness and distractions, we will dry up and wither away. Let us stop, fall to our knees in prayer, and repent to stop the action of the fire, with a surrendered purpose and abiding in His majesty.

For us to be a successful church and a growing disciple, we must abide and remain in Him, and not ourselves. The life of prayer will keep the connection and the abiding in Him. Our obedience comes from the worship, the Bible learning, and prayer life that lays the pipes for His nourishment to flow.

We need to see it this way, when we are obedient, then we will succeed, and then we will prosper no matter what we will face! So let us embrace His friendship and directive. Because His incredible self-sacrifice should empower us to obey with power, conviction, and joy that flows from us and then to others.

We must have a commitment to Christ in our worship, devotions, service, and in our surrendered will. We are modeling His character and the relationship He gave us back to Him, being thankful for our grace. We must and can do this by our loving response of worship, truly desiring to be poured out and surrendered to Him. To be in fervent Bible study and the learning of His character and purpose: to be in in-depth prayer and two-way communication with our Lord.

The result of our surrendered will is to be in an abiding relationship with our Lord, then we will be a healthy church doing and following the design and purpose of our Lord. Then we revive a great comfort of verse 11, "my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." There is no other true and joyful way than to follow our Lord's decrees. We need to see it as Christ's joy is living in us, and thus needs to flow through us into the second priority.

The model for us to follow is who Christ is and how He abided in the Father, that the Father loves His Son without any limit or measure, as Christ loves us without any boundaries.  Before we were born and beyond our death is His love for us. So what is our response to this first priority? Are we worshiping out of obligation, out of social reasons, out of habit? Or do we worship out of a response to His deep love for us? Is our worship so formal that we never see His presence, or is our worship so bare that we are as dry as the effort we put in? Spurgeon says we ought to be "Prevalent pleaders, and not formal worshipers." {Morning and Evening}

Give careful notice to this, you cannot worship God with a heart filled with yourself. You cannot worship God with a heart that is occupied by greed, slander, arrogance, pride, envy or malice. Neither can you worship when you are filled with worry, because these things take up all the room in our worship and then no room is left for God!

As we grow and learn in our personal discipleship, so will our church grow collectively, and our commitment will increase as our love and devotion increases. And the best way is to do our time joyfully in our growth, to be our best for His glory. We can do that by making sure that His call is released in us, that His choice and elect is our response, and then we will bear His fruit.  

Priority Two: Commitment to the Body of Christ 

            To love and care for each other in the body of Christ is our second commitment and call from our Lord. What flows out of the first priority is the response to pass it on to those around us as a gratitude response! Here are a few Scriptures testifying to this second priority:  

John 13:33-3:15:12,18:         "Love one another"

John 17:21:                            "That they may be one"

Eph. 4:11-16:                        "He gave some as apostles; for the equipping of the saints for the  work of  service, to the building up of the body of Christ"

Col. 1:28, 29:                        "That we may present every man complete in Christ"

II Tim.  2:2:                            "These entrust to faithful men"

Heb. 10:24, 25:                   "Stimulate one another to love and good deeds"

             "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other." (John 15:12-15) 

Love comes from the self-sacrifice of our Lord, who paved the way for our relationships, especially to God, then we must respond gratefully to our fellow believers, this is the fruit called from us. This starts off as a commandment! Love is an imperative response of the will, a choice we make and a choice to follow His directive and will. Love is life and a response, and love is a reward for our obedience, yet love comes before obedience, and love is the result of obedience, yet this is non-contradicting. Love is the elixir of life and the reward for all that remains in the vine.

This was a core Jewish belief as stated in Leviticus 19:18, and is quoted by our Lord when asked what was the greatest commandment in Mark: 12:30-31. Since the Lord loves us, then we should…. respond in love to each other! Since Christ is our model and Lord, we should follow His example. Christ will walk with us, the question is will we walk with Him and allow "priority one" to be our rule, so priority two can function, so love will flow both ways?

Now remember that the love that Christ showed us was sacrificial, not superficial, so our love should not have any strings attached, and be real and flowing.

What flows from love is obedience, another response we are to give our Creator. Just as our Lord was obedient to His call, so must we be to His call to us. Real friendship is trust and obedience, not too common today, but required in the body of Christ for us to function correctly. We place strings and conditions on our relationships {yes we need boundaries, to protect others and ourselves, but not chains}, and then wonder why our families and churches are so dysfunctional. It has materialized and risen from our refusal to obey our Lord! 

The basic theme is for us to model the first priority, our relationship with Christ to those around us.  If we cannot do it, then our relationships with each other will be dysfunctional just as the daytime talk show crowd. Thus when we are in a good, healthy relationship with the Lord then what should naturally fall from it is good relationships with people around us.

Just as God the Father models to Christ the Son and a good earthly father will model to his son, we are to model to our siblings, that is all those in the body of Christ. We are to be in growing and encouraging relationships, which are based on His redemption and our loving response and heart for His people. All those in the body of Christ are our brothers and sisters. The more we grow in priority one, the more we will grow in priority two, and this is progressive just as any growth. God asks us to sit at His feast and eat from His table, do we do the same with those around us? If our relationships are not growing progressively, then we have something blocking us, usually sin and our selfish will is getting in the way of our relationship with Christ!

Let us heed the great call that He chose us first! It is God's choice and not ours. What great comfort that He took the first step in our reconciliation. But God did not choose us just to sit in a pew, He chose us for a reason and a plan. His plan is for us to bear fruit. Not to just do it when it is convenient or when we feel like it, but continually, whenever we are {that time does not constrain us}, whatever we are {that culture does not hold us back}, and wherever we are {that our place or location shows no limits}! To be encouragers of each other is the call for the good productive church that builds the Kingdom of God. If not, all we do is build the kingdom of disease and dysfunction, and all we have to blame is ourselves for refusing to play ball God's way, which is the best way.  

Priority three: Commitment to the Mission of Christ 

To Love, and care for each other in the community and world is our third commitment and call from our Lord. What flows out of the first and second priority is the response to pass it on to those around us as a gratitude response for what Christ did for us! Here are a few Scriptures testifying to this second priority:  

Gen. 12:1-3:              "Blessed to be a blessing"

Dan. 12:3:                  "Those who lead the many to righteousness will shine brightly, like the stars forever and ever"

Proverbs 11:30:        "He who is wise wins souls"

Matt. 9:37-f                 "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray"

Matt. 28:19, 20:       "Make disciples"

Mark 12:31:             "Love thy neighbor"

Acts 1:8-28:30         "Be witnesses"

Mark 16:15:              "Preach the Gospel to all creation"

Mark 1:17:                "I will make you become fishers of men"

John 17:34:               "That the world may know"

II. Cor. 5:18:              "God...gave us the ministry of reconciliation"

II. Cor 5:20:                "We are ambassadors for Christ"

Gal. 6:10-f                  "Do good to all men" 

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: They hated me without reason. When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning." (John 15:18-27) 

To reach out to the community and world, is one of the prime purposes for us to be a church. This is what flows from our devotion and worship, and then our healthy relationships with Christ and each other. In a nutshell, these are our fruits! If we are not reaching out; then we become a Dead Sea, just like the Dead Sea in Israel. It has a fresh flow into it, but no flow out of it, thus it is stagnate and lifeless. If we refuse to follow the great commission, we too will be a dead church, stagnate and lifeless, only existing for our selfish purposes and not to God's call. This selfishness does not make us a church; this is not what Christ has called us to do! We cannot just be a church for our own whims and agenda, we are to follow Him!

A lot of pastors and Bible expositors have made the mistake that this passage is an excuse to be a recluse from the world, hence the monastic movements of the Catholic Church, and the refusal to reach out by the some of the Reformed denominations and Main Liners. Jesus made it clear that the world will hate us, but that is no excuse to ball up by ourselves, just a further reason and need for us to reach out in love and care. So when we receive insults and rejection for living out our faith, we are to rejoice as our Lord is working in others, and us. So should we be expecting to receive such a positive response? Should we expect better? No! We are to respond to the need with a grateful will and with joy that flows from the first two priorities.

As Christians, we will receive the Lord's love and acceptance, which is the greatest treat and gift conceivable. Thus when we do not receive the world's devotion, let us not retreat and fall back from our responsibility and call. We are secure in Christ and we need not to feel the security of society, even though we may feel it is necessary for our self-esteem. We are to rely on Christ's esteem and not our self-esteem!

We cannot go through life just eating junk food and sweets, just as we cannot expect to go through life just receiving praise. We have to expect to receive tension as we go against the flow of our society and even sometimes people in the body of Christ. Christ was crowned with thorns, should we expect to be crowned with anything better?

We know better! If we grew up in the church, or spent any time reading His Word, then we know better, even if we are fairly new to the faith.

Verse 22 tells us of the seriousness of our call, it is not a maybe or an option, it is clearly an imperative, that is a straight forward command as a superior officer gives a direct order to their troops! God is our Lord, which means He is our commander and chief, no direction should come to our path that is not given from Him! When we refuse the command, we should expect punishment. This may not be a very "churchly" politically correct idea in a 'Jesus loves you' and 'gives you what you want' church. But this is the truth from God's Word! Hard medicine to swallow for our feel good and complacent way of doing Church, but again, it is why we have buildings, budgets, resources, and people, to go out and fulfill His directive. When we sit in meetings and just talk about it and do little to nothing, we are refusing to yield to our Lord's very teaching!

How can we worship and praise God, then hate our neighbor? How can we kneel down in prayer but not take the time for the people around us? If we sit and hear the teachings of our Lord and then do nothing with it, we are in fact practicing atheism and not Christianity! Because that is exactly the philosophy of people who reject God, is to reject His teaching. Thus we are no better than they who claim themselves as their own god! 

The wonderful news of our directive is we are not at it alone, and I do not mean our fellow believers, but we have the Creator and Equipper of all things to empower and come alongside and help us! We are not alone! God first comes to us, then desires us to love and worship Him, and to allow that testimony to spill and fill those around us! The Holy Spirit is our power agent for the task, Now we have no excuse but to be poured out as He pours His Spirit in us. If not, what we are doing is being antagonistic to the building of His Kingdom, just as the atheists are!

 
Inspired from the teaching of my seminary professors Robert Munger and Chuck Miller

(c) R.J. Krejcir 1988, 2001 excerpt from the upcoming book 'Pew Sitting' 

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