Examining the principles that are essential in leading a congregation to maturity and fruitfulness.
For nearly two years I've been trying to frame a set of statements, which I've called, "The Essentials." This byproduct of more than 25 years of refining my focus addresses one question: "What are the essesntial teachings a pastor/leader must cover in order to shape a ministry-minded believer and a spiritually maturing congregation?"
Here's where the list stands right now. But I'm open to input from pastors or leaders who might want to read through, think through and provide feedback on the following outline. My outline's brevity may seem to omit something my expanded version would include, but maybe I've missed something you can help me with.
Even if you don't feel the need to give feedback, try using the outline as a grid to evaluate yourself. Example: "Looking at the last three years, what coverage am I providing to broaden and deepen my flock?"
For brevity, I've worded these as concisely as I can. Each awaits an "unpacking" of many teachings--seizing "Essentials" themes and developing teaching thrusts that will help to cultivate health and balance in the local church body. So, here's my list of "The Essentials": basic biblical keys necessary to disciple a people founded and freed in God's Word, and led to fullness and fruitfulness.
1. The inspiration and authority of the holy Scriptures: Helping people understand the Bible's supernatural source, its absolute authority, and its resource for growth and freedom.
2. The existence and nature of God and the Godhead: Teaching the character of the sovereign God--our Creator and the sustainer of all things--His worthiness, His ways and His workings.
3. The revelation and incarnation of the Son of God: Introducing Jesus, our Redeemer, from first glimpses in the prophets to His birth, His ministry and His saving work.
4. The general witness of the Holy Spirit to all humankind: Helping people recognize how the Spirit has been sent to awaken souls to God and to draw them to Christ.
Redemption in Christ:
1. The message of the gospel for all the world: Spreading the truth of God's love given in His Son Jesus' blood atonement for human sin, that through His blood we may be reconciled, and "whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life."
2. The freedom from guilt and condemnation: Leading believers to a solid assurance in Christ; knowing God's justifying grace, full forgiveness, abiding love and total acceptance.
3. The meaning and significance of being a child of God: Seeing the Father's hope for each of us in Christ; recovering our created intent, His entrusting us with authority and leading us to triumph.
4. The issues of sanctification and deliverance: Nurturing toward freedom and holiness of life; avoiding exaggerations of law or grace; being "cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit."
1. The intent and application of the biblical sacraments: Teaching beyond ritual the dynamic intended in water baptism and in our faithful observance of the Lord's table.
2. The necessity of nurture through God's Word: Guiding forward in a practical use of God's holy Word, growing habits of reading, feeding, study and memorization.
3. The promises and pathway of praying with faith: How an intimate, daily walk with Christ in prayer cultivates Love's climate for growing in the exercise of dynamic faith--the appropriation of God's promises with boldness, humility and biblical confidence.
4. The knowledge of an obedience to God's will: Teaching principles for finding the Father's intended personal purpose for one's life as His Word, will and ways are welcomed.
5. The principles and practice of stewardship and giving: Understanding God's call to yield our treasure, time and talents through tithes, offerings and service; learning to abound in His prospering ways unto the blessing of others.
1. The call to and ministry of the baptism with the Holy Spirit: Leading every believer to receive "power from on high" as Jesus promised; teaching to minister this experience with the same passion and expectation as the early church.
2. The gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit: Teaching the place and operation of spiritual gifts, while growing in the grace and maturation of spiritual fruit; reflecting Jesus' character and charisma in life, ministry and influence.
3. The purpose and patterns of the prophetic word: Cultivating wisdom and balance in receiving and responding biblically to the Holy Spirit's gift of "words" of temporal prompting.
4. The promise and ministry of health and healing: Leading with biblical love, grace and faith as we open to God's healing covenant and Christ's healing ministry for the whole person--spirit, soul and body.
5. The realm and ministry of the kingdom of God: Instructing in the life dimensions opened by Jesus' call to "Repent...the kingdom is at hand"; discerning His ongoing call to "reign in life."
1. The mission and structure of the church: Showing how Christ builds His church locally and globally through His appointed servant/leaders given to grow the member-ministry of His body.
2. The priorities and practice of Spirit-filled worship: Leading toward biblical, vibrant, personal and corporate worship with a reverent, humble and joyous freedom to enter His presence.
3. The principles of authority and submission: Finding the balance of applied submission; how a biblical regard for God-given authority in life opens to fullest freedom and dynamic living.
4. The dominant value and power of love: Teaching to know and grow in God's love; learning the grace of this overarching trait of His nature, which values human distinctiveness, remembers human finiteness and shows patience and mercy toward human fallibility.
1. The origin and nature of Satan and the demonic: Helping people learn how to resist the devil, break strongholds and cast out demons without presumption, superstition, fear or confusion.
2. The reality of the invisible and of angels: Teaching Christ as "Creator of all things visible and invisible," toward a discerning, functional faith that embraces both realms as equally real.
3. The call to and means of spiritual warfare: Equipping in Spirit-enabled intercessory prayer; leading to a sane, scriptural engagement in the age-long "battle in the heavenlies."
4. The issues of eternal life and eternal loss: Seeing God's love and benevolent intent in His call and requirements of humankind, with the eternal implications of obeying or rejecting Him.
Issues of Daily Life:
1. The present prophetic moment: Teaching the prophetic Word of hope revealing the final triumph of God's purpose through His Messiah--His return, millennial rule and eternal promise.
2. The vocation and ministry of the believer: Teaching the dignity of each one's gifting and calling within God's design and creative purpose to extend His life into all human enterprise and experience.
3. The meaning and responsibility of a witness: Hearing Jesus' command to love our neighbor, declare the gospel, shine as lights and bear the truth; "salting" the world in all realms, including business, politics, education and the arts.
4. The divine purpose of God for Israel and the Jew: Embracing God's "chosen people" whom He has used to initiate and advance redemption's plan throughout their history; relating with biblical sensitivity to their past, present and future.
Persons and Family:
1. The divine call to biblical manhood and womanhood: Teaching both genders the Father's unique call and way for male and female believers to live in a society where true humanity is mistaken, confused or neglected.
2. The God-ordained order for human sexual behavior: Discipling all regarding God's gift of human sexuality; teaching responsible growth as beings given such a capacity for either lifelong fulfillment or destructive self-indulgence.
3. The divine design for the home and family: Training in the principles of foundational relationships; bringing God's order for life in ways that focus, fulfill and bring fruitfulness.
There you have it--The Essentials--an outline which I hope will assist your personal pastoral focus.
Just last week a pastor told me of a recent teaching mission to a Philippine pastors' conference where he made this outline the basis of his teaching for a week. He reported great response from pastors who felt led toward balance and wholeness in their feeding/teaching task.