Quotes by Curtis Thomas
The truth should comfort the hurting but also unsettle the comfortable.
Some of the most common misuses of our tongues are:
1. Gossiping about fellow members.
2. Criticizing a sermon.
3. Running the pastor down.
4. Passing along matters which should be kept confidential.
5. Constantly questioning the leadership’s methods and motives.
6. Setting two members against each other.
7. Talking about dirty and immoral issues.
8. Making subtle, negative references about others.
9. Talking of matters about which we are uninformed.
10. Making disparaging remarks to others.
11. Bragging about our accomplishments and acts of service.
12. Encouraging church disharmony.
Trying to put many biblical concepts together, I would define a gift as a combination of personal desire, natural propensities and learned abilities. Obviously, all of this must be given to us by the grace of God, hence a gift. And for that reason they are often spoken of as “grace-gifts.”
When church discipline is being carried out properly there are several additional attendant responsibilities:
1. Confidentiality. At every step the matter is to be kept confidential at that level. For example, in step two the only parties who are to know about the matter are the individuals bringing the charge and the witnesses. This is vital. Violating this principle can cause great damage.
2. The sin being confronted must clearly be a sin, not some vague complaint or personal preference. There must be a clear violation of a biblical command or principle.
3. One must always approach a brother who is in sin with true humility and love (Galatians 6:1-5). To approach one with a spirit of pride is both unbiblical and counter-productive.
4. The church must be consistent and show no partiality in carrying out church discipline. Each member must be treated equally with complete fidelity to the Word of God.
5. Earnest prayer should attend every step. God is the one who grants repentance and He must be approached regularly.
6. Disclosing lurid details of sins is not helpful and is often very destructive to both the charged brother and the church body. Great care should be taken in the public disclosure of such matters.
7. The entire church is to be involved in the final steps, the urging of repentance and if there is no repentance, the actual discipline process. It does no good for the church to finally withdraw fellowship from the person if many of the individual members continue to fellowship with him as if nothing had occurred.
8. Forgiveness should be immediate when the brother repents. Full restoration should take place when the matter has been cleared up. If the discipline process has been public, the forgiveness and restoration must also be a public matter. The whole church can then express the wonderful joy of seeing the process work and a brother restored. (In a case where church leaders have fallen, restoration to an office may take some time for trust in them to be restored. In some situations, a leader may never be placed back into a position of leadership).
9. Church discipline is very seriously frowned upon and often criticized or made fun of, not only by the public but also by a number of evangelical churches. Yet, it is Christ’s command to His church. Our allegiance should be to the Sovereign One over our church body – Christ. We must be zealous to carry out His commands rather than fearing criticism by those who are not aware of these biblical responsibilities or by those who simply ignore them.
10. Finally, it should be clearly taught that the immediate purpose is to recover our sinning brother, but that is not the only intent. A church that practices church discipline demonstrates to the world its desire for holiness. It is also a deterrent to sin among the remaining members and it brings glory to the Head of the church – the Lord Jesus Christ.
To what type of sins is Jesus referring which would lead is to eventually exclude a non-repentant brother? 1. Divisiveness (2 Thes. 3:11; Tit. 3:10-11; Rom. 16:17-20). 2. Unruly, disorderly and undisciplined living (1 Thes. 5:14; 2 Thes. 3:6, 11, 14). 3. Conflict between members (1 Cor. 6:5; Phil. 4:2-3). 4. Sexual impurity (1 Cor. 5 and 6). 5. Denial of the great doctrines of our faith or advocating heretical teachings (1 Tim. 6:3, 5; 2 Tim. 2:16-18; Tit. 3:10; 2 Jn. 1:10-11; Rev. 2:14).
Church discipline has as its objective to recover the brother to a position of obedience, to protect the integrity of the name of Christ, to purify the church, to deter sin in the congregation and to reconcile the brother to the body.
Rebuke must be administered carefully and only after we have gathered sufficient, irrefutable evidence of an unrepentant attitude. If it is a matter of their ignorance of biblical attitudes or morality, our rebuke must be in the form of gentle instruction. But if it is a matter of high disregard of God’s standards (and not our own personal ones), our rebuke must be firm and clear. Even then patience must be exercised, allowing the Spirit of God to work in their hearts. But given a reasonable period of time, the rebuke may need to be coupled with a command to forsake that sin immediately.
In the New Testament there is a fine distinction between teaching and preaching. The preacher is described as more of a “herald” (see 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11). He is to herald forth the good news, much as a town crier would enthusiastically announce good news. Good teaching will have some aspects of heralding about it, and it should involved some motivation and application. Good preaching will certainly involve teaching also, but preaching does not stop there. Preaching also involves a dynamic that strongly calls for actions, whether it is a call to repentance and faith, a call to service, or a call to carry the Gospel to others.
Important things take place when believers observe [the Lord’s Supper]:
1. It is a vivid reminder of Christ’s broken body and shed blood (Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-27).
2. We meditate on Christ’s death on our behalf (Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 11:24).
3. It is a time of affirmation that we are participants in Christ’s sacrifice (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
4. It is a reminder that someday we will be with the risen Christ in His Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29).
5. It is a proclamation that Christ will come again (1 Corinthians 11:26).
6. It bring to our minds that the New Covenant, in which all true believers participate, was established by Christ’s sacrificing of His flesh and His blood. This New Covenant carries both great privileges and important responsibilities (Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 11:25).
7. It is a time of reflection during which participants should examine themselves to see if there are any broken relationships between them and other members of the body (1 Corinthians 11;27-28).
8. It is a time of rich fellowship for the body of Christ in which we affirm that though many, we are one in Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:17-22).
9. It includes a warning for those who participate in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 10:18-22; 11:29-32).
God is not offended by the way you dress, unless it is immodest or in unusual ways that draw attention to yourself. Wear what you have and what you can afford. God sees what is inside. Please Him, not others.
Because we often associate hospitality with our homes, here are some ways in which we can use those homes for the good of others. We can offer our homes for:
1. Home Bible Studies.
2. Home Cell Groups.
3. A place for traveling evangelists or conference speakers.
4. A place for visiting missionaries.
5. Sunday School parties.
6. Hosting singles’ groups.
7. Hosting youth activities.
8. Hosting dinners for the staff or pastors.
9. Providing dinners for international students.
10. Hosting Christian singing groups who may be traveling in our area.
11. A temporary place to stay for those families who move into our area.
12. Hosting dinners for the senior members of the church (golden agers).
13. A place for various church committees to meet.
14. A place where children can be provided for when their mothers need a day out.
15. By taking in people who do not have a home.
There should be some non-negotiables on which you must never compromise. In particular, make certain that the church is committed to:
1. The Bible as the fully inspired, inerrant, infallible and authoritative Word of God.
2. That God is exalted as holy, sovereign and all-wise.
3. That salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
4. That there is solid, biblical, expository preaching and teaching.
5. That the church recognizes its duty to evangelize its own community and those around the world through missionary efforts.
6. That it teaches and insists upon holiness among its membership.
7. That it is characterized by a love toward both the saved and the lost.
8. That it both feeds and protects the flock.
9. That it encourages genuine fellowship among its members.
10. That it is a church that prays, recognizing its absolute dependence upon the grace of God.
11. That it is a vibrant, joyful Christian fellowship.
[Guidelines for the selection of church attire.] There are no set, specific rules. But there are some personal guidelines. Some of them are: What is the custom of the church? How do the members dress? What can our budget reasonably cover? What standard does the general community condone? What is typically modest? What can be nice enough but not draw attention to ourselves? What is the appropriate dress for the occasion? What clothes enable us to be proper stewards of God’s money? A simple rule is: Clothes should be clean and neat, not flashy but enhancing, and should neither take attention away from nor draw attention to… Our words and walk are more important issues than our dress.
Our eyes should never be on the size of our church, the success of our programs, our budget, our salaries, but on speaking the truth of our Lord. Our concern must be the repentance, salvation, and spiritual growth of our hearers. To fear men is to hold God’s Word up for contempt; to fear God is to speak His message truthfully and faithfully.
As we carry out our responsibilities on our jobs, here are some questions we would do well to ask ourselves: 1. Do I regularly thank God for my job – whether it is a president of a Fortune 500 company or a garbage collector? 2. Do I properly respect those at work in authority over me, even those whose religious, political or moral convictions are different from mine? 3. Do I work heartily in whatever vocation I am placed – knowing that my service is to the Lord? 4. Do I work hard even when the boss is not watching? 5. Do I strive to have as good a reputation with my coworkers as I have with my fellow church members? 6. Do I work as efficiently as possible as to make my company profitable? 7. Do I refrain from cutting any moral corners on the job? 8. Do I make suggestions on how to improve job performance and morale? 9. Do I refrain from conversations in which the boss or supervisor is criticized? 10. Do I refrain from taking small items from my employee – paper clips, copy paper, pencils, etc. – even though “everyone else does it?” 11. Do I make personal copies on the company copier? 12. Do I use the company Internet connection for my personal use? 13. Do I fudge on my expense account or time card? 14. Am I the same person on the job as I am when away from the job? 15. Do I encourage employer respect, rather than helping create employee dissatisfaction? 16. Are my work habits sloppy, or do I attempt to always produce work of excellence? 17. Am I on time, or am I often tardy at work? 17. Do I misuse sick leave or personal leave days? 19. Do I abuse workers’ compensation benefits? Do I remind myself regularly that my job performance and general attitude can bring either glory, or dishonor, to my Lord? 20. Do I use company time to witness to my lost co-workers, or do I wait until break time or lunch time? 21. Do I remind myself regularly that my job performance and general attitude can bring either glory, or dishonor, to my Lord?
My experience with depressed people is that when they have suffered from long periods of depression and begin to talk about suicide, we had better pay attention.
We must do God’s work in God’s way, declaring God’s truth on His terms. That calls for trust – an absolute reliance upon God! The modern church often is afflicted by fear – fear of the members, fear of the world, fear of the unknown, fear of trying to do things God’s way. But it is His church, and His Word tells us how to feed His church with His truth and to leave the results in His sovereign hands.
One of the quickest ways for a pastor to raise needless questions about his integrity, to become burdened with things unnecessary, and to be tempted to treat members with partiality is to become involved in the church’s finances. Though the elders are ultimately responsible, the day-to-day affairs are best left to the deacons.
We never grow too old to be mentored or to be a mentor. We can look upon ourselves as middlemen. We should place ourselves under someone wiser and more knowledgeable than ourselves in order to learn from them, then be looking for those to whom we can transmit what we have learned. The torch must be passed continuously from one generation to the next.
We [must] give the Spirit of God opportunity to work in their lives to enable them to digest biblical truth. “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still,” but those members taught by the Spirit of God will indeed be changed.
Here are just a few of the tasks [the deacons] can handle for the church:
1. Collect, account for and distribute the offerings.
2. Maintain the physical properties of the church – buildings, grounds, vehicles, etc.
3. Care for the widows, orphans and other needy members of the body.
4. Pay the church bills.
5. Supervise the benevolence program of the church.
6. Determine the salaries and benefit programs for the church staff.
7. Purchase and supervise the church’s insurance policies.
8. Create and maintain church budgets.
9. Provide care for those members who have physical and financial needs.
10. Supervise building programs.
11. Usher and otherwise assist at the services.
12. Assist the elders in the distribution of the Lord’s Supper.
13. Provide transportation for those members who are not mobile.
The ultimate purpose of all preaching is to lead the listener to a whole-person encounter with the truth of God. His mind should understand the truth, his heart should be stirred to feel the claim of that truth, and his will should be moved to respond to that truth. This whole-person encounter with the truth of God is, finally, the means to a further end – an encounter with the God of truth Himself.
The human spirit contains our minds and our emotions. Our emotions should never be allowed to rule over our minds. We see too much of that today in what I would label “mindless Christianity.” That eventually leads to hazy theology and ultimately into mysticism.
Just how important is your church? Consider the following:
1. It provides you with daily and weekly fellowship.
2. It warns and encourages you.
3. It helps hold you accountable.
4. It provides communion for you.
5. It challenges you to use your spiritual gifts.
6. It provides a place for those gifts to be exercised.
7. It helps protect you from heresy.
8. It guides you to godly living.
9. It spiritually ministers to your family.
10. It collectively supports Christian causes and missions around the world.
11. It often means the salvation of souls (perhaps even your own).
12. It helps you when you are spiritually, emotionally, physically or financially in need.
13. It is the pillar and ground of the truth in your area.
14. It disciplines you when you develop a sinful lifestyle.
15. It helps bring down racial barriers.
These are just a few of the benefits of belonging to a good local church.
The more fractured we are, the greater we become spectacles to the world. The more we are united in love, the more the world sees Christ.
We cannot sit back and wait for the sheep to lead. A few will, but by and large they are looking to us for direction, feeding, and leadership by our stepping out courageously in faith.
In general, separations should occur only as a last resort. But there are times when one’s life, children, or sanity are involved, and the seemingly prudent thing to do is to allow for a temporary separation with the hope expressed that the guilty party will repent of his/her actions and the marriage will be saved.
The Universal Church has in it only true believers, ones who have been called by the Spirit to trust in the saving work of Christ, who are kept eternally by the love of God and who will be presented to Christ without spot or blemish.
Leadership involves taking bold steps forward, not simply reacting. It involves courage and the ability to take occasional spiritual lumps. It involves faith in a sovereign God and a trust that His Word works. It involves a sacrificial love for the flock, a love that will move us to lay down our lives for God’s people.
Expository preaching is rooted in the accurate explanation of Scripture and seeks to expose, or open up, some portion of the Bible.
Local Churches have in their membership people who are professing believers, some of whom are genuinely saved, while others are unsaved and are still lost in their sins. Sometimes it is impossible to clearly distinguish between the two, because often unbelieving members exhibit many of the outward characteristics of believers. But the Lord knows who are His.
Here are [five] important ingredients in listening to sermons:
1. Get sufficient rest before the message so that your mind is not so worn out that it cannot listen.
2. Pray continually, asking God to help you to understand and respond properly to His Word.
3. Make sure that you have everything needed (Bible, writing pad, pen, etc.). Sit where you can see and hear. Make sure personal needs are taken care of.
4. Motivate yourself. The responsibility for developing interest and understanding is primarily yours before God. Make conscious effort to be optimistic and interested from the beginning. Give the speaker your attention. If you don’t have a good, immediate reason for listening to a speaker, you probably won’t listen properly.
5. Be sure to read any assigned readings. A listener who has done his homework has better comprehension.
Pastors are sinners. They have weaknesses and faults just like church members. This is not to say that they are not to live as an example to the flock (1 Peter 5:3) and are not to have met certain moral qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). But we must be realistic about their sinful nature. They will continually do battle with the old nature which is still part of their lives, and will do so as long as they live. Total victory over sin will not be won in this life. Sanctification will take place; victories will occur; bad habits and sins will be overcome – but there will be many battles to fight until the day of glory… Remember that your pastor and his family constantly live in a fishbowl for all the church to see – and sometimes the sight is not going to be particularly attractive. They are humans also!
Here are some things which must be done before one leaves a church:
1. We must check our motives very carefully.
2. Our reasons must be well grounded and clearly articulated.
3. We must be in regular, earnest prayer about the matter.
4. We must guard our tongues very carefully.
5. We must be extremely careful that we do not unnecessarily create unrest in other members.
6. Our discussions with the leadership must be characterized by love.
7. Our attempts to correct matters must be with great respect, care and patience.
8. If our concern is over personal preferences, rather than biblical matters, we must consider others’ interests more important than ours.
9. Great care should be taken that we submit to the leadership of the church, unless we determine with proper counsel that there is a serious biblical issue at stake.
10. If the leadership will listen, we need to give them plenty of time to consider the matter.
11. If the leadership will not listen to us, or will not take proper action to correct the matter and we are thoroughly convinced that there is a serious biblical issue, we should ask for a meeting of the church in which to express our concerns.
12. We should ask ourselves what we have personally done to correct any wrong or deficiency in the church with which we are concerned.
13. We should evaluate if our leaving would do harm to an otherwise good church.
14. We should never leave, nor encourage others to leave, unless we are thoroughly convinced that one or both of the following conditions exist: 1) that the church has become an apostate church (where serious unbiblical teaching or practices are allowed), or 2) that we are convinced that, over the long haul, we cannot find a place to serve in the church, or that our families will not be spiritually fed in that body.
A good listener:
1. Blocks out possible distractions and is not easily distracted.
2. Concentrates (listening is work) and avoids mind drift.
3. Anticipates but does not assume (does not jump to conclusions).
4. Does not judge until comprehension is complete.
5. Recognizes his own predispositions, prejudices or biases toward the subject or speaker and attempts to re-evaluate his position (he listens objectively).
6. Does not dwell on unfamiliar vocabulary, but rather continues to work at listening and attempts to comprehend the main intent of the message.
Ultimately, of course, the effectiveness of preaching is the work of the Spirit. The most expertly crafted and powerfully delivered sermon imaginable will accomplish nothing if He does not act to persuade and enable the hearer to respond to the truth. But at the same time, we must also remember that the Spirit does not act in a vacuum. Ordinarily, He uses means, and preaching which employs all the rhetorical devices within the preacher’s ability is one of those means.
The next time you think about leaving a church, think of the example of Christ. He does not just walk away from His people, but patiently suffers with them through many trials and tribulations, always thinking of their needs before His own.
That non-bony, flappable instrument between our bicuspids can be an instrument of tremendous good or cataclysmic destruction. It can be used to build people up in the faith or to destroy their hard-earned reputations. It can help bring about peace among nations or can start a war. And it can be an instrument for good in a local church, or can destroy a work of God.
Nowhere in Scripture do we have the slightest hint that God’s people are to volunteer. Rather, the Scriptures indicate that the use of our gifts should be considered a joyful responsibility.
There are a lot of temptations for pastors, one of which, because of our public role, is to think of ourselves more highly than we should. And in so doing, we can develop a tendency to depreciate those who are under our leadership. This can be manifested in a number of ways. Our messages can be occasions where we talk down to people. We can berate people about particular sins, though our own sins are just as heinous. We can assume a know-it-all attitude. We can conduct meetings in such a way that we take advantage of people or make light of their thoughts or suggestions. We can make public, veiled references to people. And we can use humor about our members from the pulpit at their emotional expense.
What gifts have I received? Answer these questions:
1. What can I accomplish with my present abilities?
2. What type of service am I personally drawn to?
3. What have I been educated or trained to do?
4. What gifts do my pastors and church leaders think that I possess?
5. What does my family (who should know me best) think that my gifts are?
6. What specific needs are there in the church body?
7. Have I attempted to use a gift in a certain area and have regularly failed?
8. When have I met with success in attempting to exercise a gift or meet a need in the body?
9. Have I asked my closest friends to honestly help assess where I could most successfully serve?
Time heals things. We’ve heard that many times. And occasionally it is true that people’s emotions die down and they lose the heart to disagree or fight. But to depend on time alone in the body of Christ to mend church problems is a very dangerous path. More often than not the problems only fester, become more serious, and then explode.
We need to address the issue of personality and gifts tests. In my opinion, trying to make gift assessments based on these factors alone can be risky. People can reflect different personalities in different situations. Some people may misunderstand the questions and mistakenly answer them. Others may force certain answers hoping for certain results. Answers can be misread and misapplied. Therefore, to rely solely on personality tests to help a person determine his life’s service to God could be a serious mistake.
[Many things] are not specifically condemned by the Scriptures, and thus we must apply other criteria. For example, would these matters cause us to sin, or harm our bodies, or cause a brother to stumble, or tempt us to fall into a pattern we could not control? Clearly if those things occurred, then it would be wrong for us to do them. If not, then we have the liberty to enjoy these activities.
God despises pride. Pride usually leads into a terrible fall. Only Satan can convince us that we, by our own strength, have accomplished anything good spiritually.
The old adage that 10 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work is probably true in many congregations.
Satan is happy when problems occur in the body of Christ. He loves divisions, dissensions, uproars, individual against individual, falsehood against truth, lies, distortions, and other things that upset the tranquility and mission of the church. And one of his insidious ways of fostering these problems is to cause the leadership to assume that we just need to give the matter a bit of time to see if it won’t work itself out. Seldom is that the case! Some very minor issues, are best left alone, but when they escalate to major issues, time will work against us rather than for us. We must not fall into Satan’s trap. He is for real!