Take Heart…


In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

  • John 16:33b (ESV)

In seasons of flourishing and unbridled joy, we tend toward forgetting God as if we didn’t need His sustaining grace and power every second that we take breath on His green earth.  But in seasons of pain and grief, the Christian is faced with the crushing reality that if our God is sovereign… Then He is sovereign over all the events and circumstances that have broken our hearts.  The God who we claim to have faith in has allowed and even ordained our suffering.  And that is where the wrestling match within our soul begins…

Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  And on and on it goes.  We cannot fathom why God would create a world with such evil and wickedness.  Why we should be assaulted by temptation after temptation.  Why our flesh should be so weak.  Why life should be so fleeting and fragile.  Why infants are slaughtered by the millions before seeing the light of day.  Why our loved ones are ripped from our lives in such horrific ways. Why we must helplessly watch so much suffering around us.  What is the point of it all?  How can all of that pain possibly bring glory to the Creator of all things?

When we find ourselves swept away by these torrents of doubts and despair, our only hope is to lay hold to firm foundations.  To cling to the rock of Ages that the waves have thrown us against.  To drop the anchor and ride out the storm.  And what is that foundation, that rock, and that anchor that steadies us in the midst of such tumult?  It is the most precious gift of all – the Word of the living God and the promises contained within.

And in that Word, Jesus said plainly to His disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation.”  If you have believed some “gospel” that told you that God would take away all your worries and your pain in this life and things will be all rainbows and butterflies for men of faith, then you have believed a “gospel” that the Bible knows nothing about.  You have believed in a false gospel and a false god.  For the God of the heavens and the earth declared that IN THIS LIFE YOU WILL HAVE TRIBULATION!  You will hurt!  You will be cast down!  You will be persecuted!  You will be tortured!  You will suffer in seemingly unbearable ways!  That is what the Son of God said.

That is a promise you can hang your hat on.  It is solid floor that you can drop to your knees on.  And it is an awful rock to be thrown against, but it is a firm one nonetheless.  It is real, it is true, and it is 100% verifiable in our lives.  In this world, we have had, are having, and will have tribulation.

But, that isn’t the whole of the statement, is it?  That isn’t the full story.  That is only the nighttime hours of the full day.  It is only the darkness before the sun rises.

For our Lord continued, “… But take heart.  I have overcome the world!”  I can’t imagine that sentence was uttered without some form of exclamation.  YOU WILL HURT.  YOU WILL SUFFER.  This life will be full of woes and sorrows.  BUT take heart, take courage, and be of good cheer!  For, I the Christ and Son of the living God have overcome the world.  To prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt, this same Son of Man would defeat death itself by suffering a crucifixion and burial before rising from his deathbed, casting aside his linen burial clothes, and folding the shroud that had covered his lifeless face.  The last great enemy of all of mankind – death – has been beaten by Jesus alone.  And so He says with all power and authority granted to Him by the Father, “I have overcome the world.”

So, as you wrestle with doubts and fears… As you question God and wallow in self-pity as we all do… As you wonder how it can possibly all be made right in the end… Hold tightly to the anchor that holds against the fiercest winds this world has to offer – the Word of God.  And that Word tells us that though it is nighttime now, morning is coming.  Though we have tribulations now, our redeemer lives and He has overcome the world and all those trials and sufferings.  Though we mourn, we will be comforted.  Though we cry, our tears will be wiped away by the hand of God.  Though we are cast down, we will never be destroyed.

Our anchor holds, it firmly holds, because Jesus of Nazareth has overcome the world.


Give to Gain

Proverbs 3-9 10


The paradox of the tithe is that by giving, we might gain.  By losing, we might win.  And by humbling ourselves, we might be exalted.

The Lord promises that by returning the proper portion to Him first and foremost, we will never want.  It seems strange that by giving 10% or more of our total increase (or gross income) to the local church we will end up with more.  But that is the truth.  By giving cheerfully and unreservedly, our barns will always be filled with plenty and our vats bursting with wine.  The imagery could not be more clear.

Why then do SO many Christians fail to tithe or come anywhere close to giving the amount of 10% as prescribed in the Old Testament and reiterated by Jesus in the New Testament (Matthew 23:23)?  The average household income in America is close to $60,000/year.  That should equate to hundreds of dollars given every month from most families in the church and thousands of dollars each year.  For some it will be less and for some it will be astronomically more.  And yet, that’s the model.  It’s basic, entry-level discipleship.  Just because there are far more important things in the Christian life, that doesn’t mean we should neglect the basics… Wasn’t that Jesus’ point?

Don’t assume I say this as if I am some sort of pious and accomplished giver who has always given my share to the church.  To my shame, I have failed miserably at it.  But I have found recently that by dedicating our family to giving at least the 10% tithe to the local church, we are gradually mortifying the greedy flesh that bubbles up within us so mightily.  The love of money will only swell within your heart the more you hoard and spend on yourself – I speak from experience.

Making a wonderful living is no sin.  Saving and spending is no sin.  But withholding the Lord’s portion is… It is not some display of New Covenant liberty.  It’s greed.  I’ve been there and I’m tempted everyday to go back.  Sure, I add up what that money could be spent on.  Sure I look at the new trucks and bigger houses and compound interest of the stock market and I realize how much faster I could reach certain financial goals if those tithe checks never left the checkbook.  But, the Lord has promised that if I am faithful to give to Him first, He will ensure that my barns are plenty full.  And I believe Him… Even when I don’t want to.

Perhaps our preachers and pastors are so largely silent on this issue because they don’t want to be seen as self-serving in teaching their congregations to give generously and having the discipline to give consistently.  But this lack of clarity is only harming the flock as people are misled into believing that their level of giving does not matter and that math and personal finance is somehow “un-spiritual”.  Let’s not dance around this issue any longer.  If you aren’t giving consistently and generously… You should be.  Remember it’s all His anyway.  We are just stewards of these material things for a little while.  Let’s be good and faithful ones.

It won’t pad my pockets if you do, and I won’t starve if you don’t.  But I know it will bless you immensely to obey the Biblical prescriptions of tithes and offerings.  So I hope that if you are giving – you keep it up (it matters)!  If you aren’t giving enough, it’s not too late to start!

If you are confused and concerned, check out some books by Randy Alcorn.  I’d start with “Managing God’s Money” for a short kick start.  God bless, friends!

Reflections on Loss and Truth

On February 23, 2017 we lost my mother. While the loss of a loved one is surely always difficult, the suddenness of Mama’s passing brought great grief upon my tight-knit family. One moment everything was fine and she was planning to go over to my house to help my wife with our newborn daughter, and the next my Dad was calling me to come to the hospital – unable to finish telling me what was wrong. The next four days brought suffering like I had never known before, the kind of pain and helplessness that no words can adequately describe. And then after days of fighting, praying, and waiting, they turned the machines off and Mama slipped away. Gone.

At least that’s the way it felt. She was gone. She is gone. And she is never coming back. It’s nearly impossible to type those words, let alone say them out loud. So we don’t talk much. Even when it’s just us men – her husband and three boys that share in that special grief – we don’t say much more than, “I miss her.” Not much more can be said… Can it? Those closest to us don’t ask, “How are you doing?” Because they know. Only strangers ask that – and so I lie and say “Ok” or “fine” or even “good.” But we aren’t good, fine, or even Ok. We are managing. We are doing what we know how to do – work, eat, sleep, repeat. We’ve all retreated into our domains so we can operate on autopilot. Sure, we smile and laugh. We even genuinely feel good for a moment here and a few minutes there. But then we remember – she’s gone. And the cloud returns.

But you know, even though that dark cloud hangs over our heads and the thick fog engulfs our lives, we do know the truth deep down. We know she isn’t gone forever. To be honest, that’s hard to believe and it only rarely makes us feel better. It still feels like she’s gone. But reality is not about feelings, it’s about the truth. And the truth is – even though we can’t fathom it – that Mama is very much alive. Her body is buried right behind her mother’s at Fellowship Church out in the country on Mud Road… But the truth is that her soul never died. Her very real spirit departed her body on February 23, 2017. She became “absent” from the body and “present” with the Lord in an instant on that day. It would be impossible to say exactly when it happened, but the truth tells us that it did indeed happen. She was gone – but she was not gone. She was dead – but she was alive.

But the devil creeps in and asks, “Did you really believe that?” Do you really believe that someone can be gone, but not gone forever? Do you really believe that your Mama is alive and well? Do you???

And the answer is simply – “Yes.” Yes, I believe that God created the universe from nothing. How else can you explain this incredible world we live in and marvel at? I believe that God breathed life into man in the very beginning. I believe that this was just the first physical manifestation of a plan devised in the mysteries of eternity past between the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I believe that God chose a people before the foundation of the world to be HIS people. Why? Because He wanted to and it would bring Him even greater glory to do so. And that in this select group of very blessed individuals there was a very special name (at least to me) written in that book – Devra Proctor Walker (you see, God already knew that though she would be born a Proctor, she would marry Lindsay and take his name). Before He said, “Let there be light,” He said, “I choose her… I will shed my own blood for her. I will pour out my grace on her. Though she will be born into sin and iniquity, I will wash her as white as snow. I will replace her heart of stone with a heart of flesh. I will reveal myself to her in ordinary and extraordinary ways throughout her life. I will mold her continually into the image of my Son. I will bless her. And then on February 23, 2017 I will take her. I will bring her home to the place that I have prepared for her. And I will embrace her at last.”

Isn’t that just a religious crutch? Aren’t those just platitudes that I use to make myself feel better? Well, no… Seeing as how I still miss her terribly. You see, I’m still here. I’m not in Heaven with the Lord. I’m here with you, in this dark and sin cursed world. To be honest, most of the time I don’t feel that much better knowing all those wonderful things. But it doesn’t matter what I feel. It matters what’s true. And Jesus is true. He is the way, the truth, and the life. And He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live…” That’s true. How do I know that it’s true? Because the very same man that said that was hung a Roman cross. He was tortured and killed. He was buried in a tomb. And then, just as He had lain down His life, He took it up again. He rose from the dead – that’s resurrection. And then people saw Him. Not just one person, but hundreds of people saw the man who had died on the cross. They saw the holes in His hands, and some even felt the gash in His side. He even ate fish with them. So, no it isn’t just something I tell myself to feel better. It’s something I tell myself again and again because it’s true.

My Mama is with Jesus. And though I don’t understand all the nuts and bolts of it, I do know that even her body will be raised up one day to rejoin her soul. And we will all be called up together – those alive and those already ‘dead’ – with the Lord in the air. And on the day that trumpet sounds, I plan to find my Mama and embrace her new body with my new body. I can’t wait to meet her Mama Uldine, so I’ll probably hug her too. What a day that will be.

But for today, I’ll just hurt a little while longer. I’ll keep working tomorrow. I’ll try my best to be the man she raised me to be. I’ll love my wife. I’ll love my wild daughter and unborn son. I’ll the love my father and my brothers. I’ll love my family and my friends. I’ll love and serve the Lord’s church here on Earth. I’ll love the business my parents built and the customers who keep us going. But most of all, I’ll love the Lord who gave me my Mama and then took her from us. Blessed be His name.



This article is not intended to be an in-depth look at any particular theological topic or Scriptural text.  Rather, it is simply the ramblings and musings of heart and mind that is hurting.  One of the things that has helped me most over the past year has been reading about others who have suffered loss.  What they thought, what they felt, what they did.  All of it helped as I grappled and continue to grapple with my own ups and downs and all arounds.  That is why I am willing to publish something here that is less structured and planned – and more conversational and scattered.  The above post is just an example of how I wrestle with the loss of my Mother internally from day to day.  Unfortunately, there is still a dark cloud that seems to follow my family around even when other things seem to be going so well.  Our smiles fade a little faster and even the best feelings are mingled with tears.  I guess I just wanted to share my experience that the Gospel truths and promises of God can be held to fiercely without the benefit of lifted sorrows.  It is possible to grieve and continue to grieve even though you believe what God has said.  Sometimes, we have to just hurt for awhile.  It doesn’t mean that God is any less good, or that we don’t trust Him.  It simply means that we are hurting.  It’s Ok to hurt.  The truth helps, and oftentimes it is the only firm thing that we can stand on.  I can’t imagine life without the Word of God.

Church Calendar: Burden or Blessing?


Am I the only person who gets cold sweats during the announcement portion of worship services?  Here we are, finally gathered together on the wonderful day of rest in the Lord’s house after scrambling around all week trying to get everything done… And the first thing we see in the bulletin is the 47 things that are happening at the church the upcoming week.  Oh boy….

Evening worship later that day.

Choir Practice on Monday night

Men’s Brotherhood on Tuesday night

Midweek Bible Study on Wednesday evening

Ladies Circle on Thursday night

Youth games on Friday night

Oh look… nothing on Saturday this time…

And back to Worship on Sunday

It’s exhausting just thinking about all the “opportunities” for church involvement and Christian service.  We barely feel like we have seen our families all together at all this past week, and now we are already fretting because next week isn’t looking too good either.  So what do we do?  We decide that we simply cannot make it to everything, and so we say that we will come to what we can when we can.  As the week goes by, we are always busy and so most of us end up not making it to much of anything.  Overtime, everything on the church calendar begins to blur together and we start to look at all of it as optional.  “We will make it whenever we can” becomes our motto.  The faithful attenders of everything begin to resent the those who don’t or can’t come to much, and the church begins to feel quite fragmented and cliquish.


So what is the big problem with this?  Well, the problem is that gathering together with our church family for mutual encouragement and corporate worship is NOT optional (Hebrews 10:24,25).  It is a clear imperative in the Scriptures – we must not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.  However, that doesn’t mean that everything the church puts on the calendar is mandatory.  Some things are and some things are not essential for each and every church member.  But when that is not clearly communicated to everyone, then we naturally begin to assume one of two things:

  • Either we think everything is mandatory which burdens us greatly,
  • Or we begin to lump all the services and events together as being optional which will gradually kill church attendance.

This is a subtle problem that creates long term issues in our local congregations.  Instead of being the wonderful drink of fresh water that our gatherings together are meant to be, we begin to feel burdened by the calendar, guilty all the times we aren’t present, and over time we grow apathetic toward the local church.  Important spiritual things are relegated to the backseats of our busy lives.


What can we do about it?  What is the solution?  I believe it is fairly simple – we must be very clear on our church calendars about what is “mandatory” and what is “optional”.  We must define those things that are simply opportunities that anyone can join in on, but everyone is not expected to be present for.  And then we must identify those things that are absolutely mandatory for all members to attend.

Really, it’s that easy.  Dave Ramsey says that for leaders and managers “to be unclear is to be unkind.”  That means that from a business standpoint it is absolutely imperative that employee’s understand what is expected of them.  If I don’t let my pharmacy technicians know up front  and in no uncertain terms that being at least 5 minutes early and abiding by the dress code is mandatory, then I am to blame when they show up late and look sloppy.

This is equally true in the church.  Members of the flock need to be clear on what is expected of them – crystal clear.  (This will make church discipline SO much more feasible).  To make this happen the expectations of membership must be impressed upon our minds through clear teaching and communication from the Elders of the church.  Optional opportunities should be presented as such so that the congregation does not feel overly burdened as those pile up on the calendar, BUT the absolutely vital church gatherings should also be presented as mandatory so that everyone knows that they are expected to present at those times.  Clarity and Biblical teaching on these things will go a long way toward solving the problem of burdensome church calendars and should free up our congregations to enjoy the great blessing of the church family with consistency and liberty.

Practical Considerations and Recommendations:

  • The Church Bulletin is a wonderful tool, as is technology (email, website, social media, etc.).  We just need to use those responsibly so that people have the clarity that they need about what is expected of them and what opportunities are available.  Perhaps use red lettering for mandatory church gatherings, and blue for optional.  Don’t be afraid to state plainly when members attendance is expected.
  • Printed instruction is not enough.  We all need training in how to read and use the Bulletin and the Calendar.  This must be taught by the leadership of the church.  Without leadership, the flock will wander and scatter and the church will be rendered ineffective.
  • Some of you may be wandering what is optional and what is mandatory.  Each church will have to decide this for themselves.  It is important to gather regularly for worship and to support one another, however it is also important to allow enough free time for our people to be out in the world as salt and light!  We need to be together regularly as a church family, but we also need to have ample time to tend to our own individual families and to be in the work place working hard – all of that is noble and is true spiritual worship according to the Bible.  However, I can certainly give you my thoughts on what should be mandatory and optional:
    • Absolutely MANDATORY (every member is to be present if at all possible – you skip other things in your life to come to these gatherings): Corporate Worship (including evening services if your church has those), Communion/Lord’s Supper, Church Conferences or important meetings where voting occurs.
    • Optional but strongly encouraged: Prayer Meetings, Church sanctioned small group Bible Studies (with Elder approved curriculum), Special events for fellowship (dinner on the grounds, fall festival, etc.)
    • Optional:  Support groups, choir, women’s activity groups, men’s activity groups, service organizations, etc.

May God bless our churches!

Youth Group – Not in the Bible

I normally like to focus on what is in the Bible.  I love to look at a passage of Scripture and dig in – striving to understand it better.  But after last night, I feel a burden to write on something that is not in Bible.  Let me explain…

Last night, my wife, daughter, and I attended the evening worship service at our church.  Even with little Emerson squirming, it was a blessing to be there to pray, sing, and listen to the preaching of God’s Word.  But something was missing.  I didn’t notice until after we left, but I am almost positive that we were the only people in the congregation under the age of 50.  Why?  Because our church has adopted a “division of worship” plan similar to so many of the churches in our day.  We have a separate service for the young people.  We segregate our congregation on Sunday evenings by age.  The adults gather in the sanctuary for prayer, hymns, and a sermon, and the young people gather in the fellowship hall to sing more contemporary songs and have various lessons taught by some of the younger adults who are involved with the youth program.  In affect we have two churches on Sunday nights.  We don’t speak, we don’t see each other, and the only way I know that the youth are in the building is because I see more vehicles parked in front of the fellowship hall.

Perhaps something similar goes on in your church.  I simply want to make the observation that I have found absolutely no mention of such segregation in the New Testament Church of Jesus Christ.  We could turn to Scriptures dealing with youth groups and youth worship services for guidance in this area… Except there is a problem – The Bible has NOTHING to say about young people worshiping apart from the adult congregation.  There is no doubt that the people who have devised these youth focused services and ministry efforts have the best of intentions the majority of the time… But that doesn’t change the fact that the dissection of the church on the basis of age is unbiblical.  That ought to alarm us when we consider so much of what we are doing in our churches today is based upon this type of model.

Titus chapter 2 offers us some very helpful guidance as to how the older and the younger are to interact with one another within the church.

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

  • Titus 2:2-5 (ESV)

Basically, Paul is clear that the older folks in our families and churches are to serve as godly examples to our young people.  And nowhere is this more important than in the context of our local congregations and especially our corporate worship services.  Children, teenagers, and even young adults need to see their faithful parents and other adults engaged in reverent worship before God.  They need to have that parental presence that is able to explain the things that they do not understand in the service and the sermon.  They need to be “in church” with everyone else.

On the other hand, the older generation of Christians needs the presence of the young people.  They need those vessels to pour into and to support.  They need the energy and vibrancy of youth to strengthen and encourage their own souls.  The need the strength and stamina of those younger than they are to carry on the more physical works of ministry within the church and community.  How beautiful is the body of Christ when it is gathered together in all its diversity to worship God and exercise its varied gifts to His glory.  There are rich differences between young and old, and those differences are a part of what help the body to function most effectively (I Corinthians 12).  When young and old are separated for worship and for ministry, everyone suffers for it.  The body is divided, disjointed, and uncoordinated.

The simple fact is that “Youth Worship” is a well-meaning scheme of man, not a design of God.  When we pursue efforts like this, we just reveal that we do not truly trust the prescriptions of God in His Word.  We show that we think we have a better way.  I will close with my favorite exhortation to the local church regarding our responsibilities one to another (which I had the pleasure of preaching on not long ago):

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

  • Hebrews 10:24,25

May the Lord help us to help each other through counter-cultural and inter-generational unity and selflessness in our churches!


Voddie Baucham speaks with extreme candor and clarity on this problem in our churches today.  Here is an interview with Pastor Baucham where he poses some difficult questions and points out the inconsistencies with current models of youth ministry.


As a postscript, I would like to add that I do not believe that I “have it all figured out” or that I know the absolute best way to go about ministering to all the different people in our local churches.  My wife was able to point out inconsistencies in my own words and actions regarding this issue and many others with relative ease.  My desire is only that we would take a step back and think… That we would ultimately trace our steps back all the way until we get to the explicit teachings of the Bible regarding worship, church life, and organization and then rebuild our own church systems from there.  We have to constantly combat our preconceived notions and prejudices and have an open mind when we come to the Word of God.

By all means comment and share your thoughts with me!  I am certain that I can learn much from all of you.

Sermon: “Marvelous Faith”

This past Sunday, we had the opportunity to worship with the folks down at Lanes PBC in Stilson, Georgia.  It is always a joy to visit and fellowship with these gracious people.

For the sermon I tried to deal with the story of Jesus healing the Centurion’s servant from Luke chapter 7.  The thing that originally grabbed my attention was that this man’s faith amazed the Lord, and the second thing that captivated me was that the Centurion’s faith was in the WORD of the Lord.  Then, the more I re-read and studied this narrative, the more I noticed the undeniable fruits of faith born out in his life.  It is a beautiful picture of the fullness of true and active belief.

May God add His blessing and continue to use the preaching of His Word to accomplish His purposes of redemption in this world.


Sermon: “Consider One Another”

I had the wonderful opportunity and privilege of worshiping with my brothers and sisters in Waycross, Georgia this morning at the Comfort Chapel Primitive Baptist Church.

The people were warm and excited about the Word of God, and the service was quite enjoyable for me personally.  I endeavored to preach from Hebrews chapter 10 and verses 24 and 25.  This text is a powerful exhortation for all Christians to fellowship with the saints and devote themselves to consistent assembly together in worship.

I hope the Lord will continue to bless the preaching of His Word in this forum!

Pain and Anger: Footholds for the Devil


I was listening to Paul Washer’s testimony not too long ago and one thing that he said really stuck with me.  He was discussing the sudden and tragic loss of his father to a heart attack when he was still a very young man (late teens I believe).  He described a bit of the downward spiral his life took and how he began to rebel in many ways by drinking heavily and neglecting his other commitments.  But the point he made about all of that was that he now understands that his father’s death was not the cause of his immoral behavior, rather it was just the excuse that his own flesh used to pursue the lusts and depraved desires already within him.  Tragedy was not to blame, he was.

This hits me hard this evening as I find myself weighed down by a heavy conscience.  I can see and feel that I have been impatient, irritable, indifferent, and unloving toward many of the people that I interact with every day.  Most of it has been masked behind a fake smile and well-practiced voice, but I know and cannot escape the truth about my hardness of heart in so many situations over the past few months.  The loss of my mother hurt in February and at times it hurts even more today.  The grief is real, but the grief isn’t the problem.  The problem is that I have allowed my personal experience of genuine tragedy to arouse an undercurrent of anger in me, and that steady burning anger has given the devil a foothold in my life (Ephesians 4:27).

Washer put it this way about his own experience:

We’ve been taught to think that ‘He is a victim of his father’s death’.   That’s not true.  My father’s death gave my wicked flesh the opportunity to do what it had always wanted to do… I wasn’t a victim; I was a culprit.

I feel the same pain of conviction about my own life over the past 5 months and 2 weeks.  I’ve always had a tendency to withdraw and somehow I’ve let my grieving excuse my neglect of important relationships with important people as I tell myself ‘It’s OK to want some time to yourself’ even when I’m needed.  I’ve always had a quick and hot temper, and I’ve given myself license to be angry because of my loss.  I have been deceived into thinking that these subtle sins were acceptable due to my extenuating circumstances.  Then the hammer dropped when I came across this list of characteristics that Christians must embody:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

  • Romans 12:9-17 (ESV)

Now while I might have convinced myself that I was still doing pretty good in my Christian walk, when I evaluate my behavior and thoughts in this light I am ashamed at the wickedness that still remains.  Genuine and active love is not optional for the child of God; it doesn’t matter whether we are suffering or celebrating, weeping or laughing, winning or losing.  We must, in humility, count others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).  Our losses and pains must never be allowed to continue on as crutches for our sinful and selfish flesh.  Put it to death and move forward.  We are not to mourn as those who have no hope (I Thessalonians 4:13).  Instead we must remain dedicated to our commitment to one another as saints of God and joint heirs to His kingdom, encouraging one another all the more as the day draws near (Hebrews 10:25)   Even as we mourn, we must press on, praise God, and love people.

May God help me to do just that!

Plurality of Elders Manifesto


Leadership is important.  The Bible repeatedly compares people to sheep (Psalm 100:3, Jeremiah 50:6, Matthew 9:36, John 10:11, etc.).  Sheep need guidance, protection, and provision – in short, sheep need shepherding.  In John 10:11, Jesus identifies Himself as the “good Shepherd”, the One who lays down His own life for the sake of His sheep – and so Christ is certainly the quintessential shepherd when we consider the Church made up of His people.  And yet, I Peter 5 makes very clear that there is another subcategory of shepherd leaders.

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

– I Peter 5:1-4 (ESV)

This is where we get the term “undershepherd” from.  It means that the duly appointed elders of Christian churches are to serve in a guiding leadership role consistent with, but subservient to, the chief Shepherdship of Jesus Himself.  They are to “shepherd the flock of God” that is among them or under their charge.  This, of course, carries with it the mirror principle that the non-elders in our congregations are to submit to the ruling leadership of their elders.  Picking back up in I Peter 5, we read in verse 5: “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”  In a Biblically modeled church, the younger (those who are spiritually less mature) are to humble and subject themselves to the elders of that church.  This concept is vital to the health of our flocks (or churches), and we would do well to study our own leadership and shepherding models as we pursue obedience to God’s Word.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said that “It is a poor physician who treats the symptoms and complications only and ignores the disease.”  His point was that we sometimes are so busy putting “band-aids” and quick fixes on many little problems, that we neglect dealing with the real underlying issue that is causing so many of the various difficulties we suffer from.  Every church has its own set of problems due to all the imperfect people involved.  In observing my own church and more broadly the churches within my denomination (Progressive Primitive Baptists), I have come to the belief that many of our “little” problems are due in large part to a fundamental deficiency in our church leadership tradition.  I believe that our departure from the Biblical model of local churches with a plurality of elders is one of our biggest practical pitfalls.1

Perhaps it seems a bit of a stretch to blame so much of our congregational unrest, discord about church practices, shortage of pastors, rapidly declining church membership logs, and the alarming rate of church closures on something so seemingly insignificant as the question of whether we have one or multiple elders in our churches.  Perhaps it also seems counterintuitive to think that if we can barely scrounge up enough men to preach to our people on Sundays, that we could somehow ordain additional undershepherds in these same struggling churches.  And maybe my thesis is indeed altogether incorrect, or maybe it truly would be implausible and impossible to move toward a plurality of elders model in our denomination even if that was the root of so many problems.  Maybe… But I don’t think so.  I believe strongly that single eldership and the perception of deacon-led congregational rule is handicapping our churches.  This is obviously a problem that cannot be remedied overnight.  But take it from a pharmacist, any good treatment plan begins with a proper diagnosis of the problem.  And so in this paper, it is my intention to convince you (or at least encourage you to consider) that a plurality of elders is indeed the wise and Biblical model for a local church.  To do that, I want to explore this theme under three major headings (I am a Baptist after all!):

  1. The Biblical model of the New Testament Church
  2. Biblical wisdom regarding numbers
  3. Practical considerations

1.) The Biblical model of the New Testament Church

More has been written on church government than you or I could ever read.  There are scores of books arguing each and every position out there regarding just how local churches are to be governed.  I couldn’t even name all the different models, much less evaluate them properly.  I will say that I don’t think it is possible to get it perfect here on earth, but we can pursue Biblical faithfulness.  And so as I am not qualified to evaluate and nitpick all of the existing models out there, I simply want to highlight one common theme throughout the New Testament.  In His article, “Elders for the Church”, Phil Newton wrote plainly that “Each reference to local church elders demonstrates plurality as the New Testament practice.”  Where does he draw this conclusion?  Let’s look at some of the clearest references to local church eldership in the Bible:

When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” – Acts 14:21-23 (ESV… Emphasis mine)

Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.” – Acts 20:17 (ESV)

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” – Titus 1:5 (ESV… Emphasis mine)

We can see from these few examples that there is a clear reference to multiple elders in singular towns or churches… Every time.  These were not some association gatherings where elders who pastored churches by themselves gathered together, rather it is apparent that as New Testament churches were planted there were multiple men put in place to shepherd them – these men were either appointed from among the local people, or left behind from the missionary group, or both.  There is not a complete exposition given in any one place in Bible that tells us why this plurality of elders was the norm, there is just the testimony of a multitude of Scriptures that shows us that it was so.

Therefore, any arguments against the plurality of elders must be practical in nature and not Biblical.  When folks explain why the church should not have more than one pastor, the reasoning is most often based around a perceived lack of feasibility (see the Epilogue).  You may hear that, “We only have one pastor at our church(es) because we are small in number and only need one.”  Or, “We cannot afford to support multiple elders.”  Or maybe even, “We have always made it just fine with just one preacher.”  So you will certainly encounter practical, financial, and even historical/traditional arguments… But I, for one, have yet to hear a single sound Biblical argument as to why any church has only one elder.  Why?  Because the ONLY model that we find in the New Testament is that of a plurality of elders in local churches.

2.) Biblical wisdom regarding numbers

I mentioned previously that while the New Testament gives us plenty of examples of multiple elders in singular churches, we do not find any clear explanatory remarks as to why that was the normal model for the Christian Church.  Therefore, we are left to deduce the reasons for this by carefully considering the profound Biblical wisdom regarding strength in numbers.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (ESV)

The wisdom in these verses is astounding.  This plain truth is the basis for all teamwork and support in our families, businesses, teams, churches, cities, states, and nations.  Together we are stronger than we are alone.  And yet, most of our churches act as if they believe a pastor is excluded from this rule – that somehow, he is stronger by himself than he would be as part of a leadership/shepherding team.  Make no mistake, when you support a model of single eldership, you are denying your pastor much needed support that he could be deriving from and offering to any additional elder(s) at your church.  The board of deacons cannot offer that type of support, neither can members of the congregation or even the pastors own wife and family.  This is because ultimately the pastor will be blamed for anything that goes wrong and the weight of expectation will be placed on only his shoulders when anything difficult needs doing.  Shepherding God’s people can get very cold, and where can a pastor find comforting warmth but from a co-pastor or fellow elder.  The church is constantly under fire from the world and the devil, and our pastors fight daily with their own lustful flesh.  How much stronger might our elders be, and how much more able they might be to stand up against their enemies, if they enjoyed the support of equal partners in the trenches!  A threefold cord is not quickly broken… Perhaps this is why Jesus sent his Apostles and disciples out two-by-two!

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.” – Luke 10:1 (ESV)

When Jesus sent out missionaries ahead of Him to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God, He did not send them alone!  While I would not take any liberties by comparing these early missionary disciples to elders of local churches, it is hard to miss the practical wisdom of such a plan.  Jesus knew the difficulties that lay before them.  He knew that He was sending them as lambs into the dens of wolves (v. 3).  And yet He told them not to take moneybags, knapsacks, or sandals on the road; rather, they were to simply go with only the comfort and support of their partner on the journey.  Perhaps if we realized how difficult the charge of a pastor was we might be more apt to also realize the strength that can be drawn from having a team or at least a partner.  Perhaps if we believed that they too face temptations and need accountability, and that they too get worn down and weary and need support, and that they too are besieged by the enemies of their souls and need defense and strength… Perhaps then we might desire to give them the authoritative and coequal help that they so desperately need.

Please note that neither of these two passages speak directly to the concept of church eldership, but both offer us profound wisdom to use when we consider the best possible way for church leadership to be done.  God loves the church, and so should we.  And if we too want what is best for the church, if we too want a healthy and growing flock, then our first order of business ought to be to ensure we are doing everything possible to support our shepherds.  The US Army has a very complex organizational scheme from Divisions, to Brigades, to Battalions and so on… But do you know what their smallest unit is?  It’s a team – made up of no less than 2 men.  The army knows that in order to be successful, a soldier ought never to operate alone, for that is when he is at his weakest.  Brothers and Sisters, we would do well to remember that in this world the church is at war.  We bind ourselves to communities of faith called churches because we know we need help and support in this fight… And yet, we expect our leaders to operate the most dangerous of missions all alone.  It ought not to be so.

3.) Practical considerations

Utilizing the wisdom found in the Scriptures regarding the strength that is found in numbers committed to a common cause, I want to close by applying this to some of the real life problems that churches today (in many denominations) are experiencing related to the single eldership models.

Each church experiences its own manifestations of symptoms related to only having one pastor.  In larger churches, it can be seen when the pastor gets stretched too thin.  He is expected to prepare to preach 2-3 sermons per week, perhaps lead a mid-week Bible study, visit every single member who is shut-in or hospitalized, attend all deacon or church leadership committee meetings, manage his own family well, speak outside of the church to promote the gospel when opportunities arise, provide private counsel to his flock and others, and a multitude of other things that most of us aren’t even aware of.  In a church of over 100 active members this simply is not possible to do well.  Something (if not everything) is going to suffer.  The sermons will lack in substance because sermon prep time is limited and constantly interrupted.  The visitation will be spotty due to the number of hours in a day and days in a week.  Church discipline and oversight completely disappears.  The pastors home life will suffer and we will end up with undisciplined “preacher’s kids” because we have robbed them of a fatherly presence.  Unqualified members of the congregation will begin to take on roles that they have no business in because they genuinely just want to help meet the neglected needs of the church and have no real guidance or oversight.  Before you know it, we have a bona fide mess on our hands.  And who gets the blame?  The pastor.  But don’t worry, we can always just get rid of him and call a new one to wear out before tossing him aside for the next poor candidate who we think might be able to manage the unmanageable position that we call our “elder”.

In smaller churches, the problems may present more subtly and are more difficult to decisively pin on the issue of only having one elder – and yet, they are there.  As with any church, a small church with one elder tends to essentially isolate the man tasked with shepherding them.  The pastor suffers mightily under the weight of a seemingly unfruitful ministry as the status quo remains year after year.  All of the same things are expected of small church pastors, and so parts of their life and ministry suffer as does the life of the church.  While they may be able to handle the smaller visitation schedule, these pastors must deal with their own set of equally difficult situations.  Are we to think that they need no support alongside them just because there are less people in the pews?  The problems of loneliness and discouragement may be even more problematic for the single pastor of a small church.  How much would these men benefit from the warm and prayerful support that might exist among a board of elders or a partnership of 2 men pursuing the same ministry together?

Both of these situations, large churches that rapidly stretch their pastors too thin and small churches that wear down their pastors more slowly subtly, can be remedied by simply implementing a plurality of elders.  It may not fix the problems that exist immediately, but it at least puts into place the framework needed to begin the healing process.  How?

Adding additional elders in our churches would afford the primary teaching pastor(s) with additional time to devote to the cultivation of their preaching gifts.  More time in prayer and more time in study will lead to better expository sermons.  Better sermons through the Scriptures will begin to educate the congregation on things that have long caused discord among the people and will bring great unity in the Truth.  The more the Word of God is faithfully preached, the more closely aligned a congregation will be to it.

The programs that the church endeavors to undertake will immediately be strengthened because the additional elders can bring authority and stability to these efforts.  Family and youth ministry will flourish under sound Biblical teaching and guidance from an authoritative and Biblically qualified voice.  Visitation and evangelistic ministries will thrive under the careful direction of an elder who communicates consistently with the other elders and members of the church.  Practically speaking, the ability of a church to be the church would be bolstered and augmented immeasurably by the implementation of the Biblical model of church leadership.  My heart soars at the very thought of what my church could do under such favorable circumstances!  What about yours?  What about your church?


In summary, I believe that when you combine the New Testament norm of multiple elders in individual towns and churches with the Biblical wisdom that teaches us that there is great strength in numbers and teamwork, and then you apply that to the practical issues that arise in our churches directly related to the workload and burden placed on our sole elders, then you are left with the very plain conclusion that our churches would be better off if we pursued a model consisting of a plurality of elders.  If I am wrong, may God soften my heart and allow me to be convinced otherwise, convicted of my errors, and led toward the truth.  But if I am right, then may God bless us with a burning desire to pursue the New Testament model of church eldership.


1 Please first understand that I am not casting blame on my own pastor, the elders in our denomination throughout the years, the deacons of our churches, our congregations, or anyone else in particular.  I think the point we have arrived at is the result of slow and steady changes and adaptations over 200+ years.  The church tends to “creep” and “slip” away from Biblically orthodox practices when it makes small exceptions due to extenuating circumstances and then carries those special practices out until they become normal.


Epilogue: Interacting with presumed objections

I also would like to take a moment to deal with two of the most common objections that I have heard to the implementation of plurality of elders in the Primitive Baptist Denomination.

The fact is that with all other things being equal, a team of elders will be stronger and more successful than an individual.  But the biggest practical consideration is not a dispute against that, rather it is the idea among our people that our churches just can’t possibly support more than one elder (and by that, of course, they mean that they cannot afford it financially).  Well, I’m here to present a solution to that argument – Don’t pay all of the elders!  While it is true that the Bible insists that these men who give themselves to the vocational ministry surely deserve our support and honor (I Timothy 5:17), even financially speaking, it is not the Biblical mandate that each and every elder be paid for His service.  In many of our churches, the deacons essentially function as elders already in terms of how they meet, lead, and make decisions for the church.  And yet, none of them are paid staff.  Many of these men are even Biblically qualified to be “elders/bishops/overseers” (Titus 1 and I Timothy 3).   So why not ordain them as such, invest authority in them, and sanction them to fill the role they are already participating in?  Then you have a Biblical board of ELDERS leading the church rather than deacons, which would allow the deacons to return to their primary duty of serving the people of the church in various physical and material ways.  In this case, surely only one (or possibly two) of the elders will give the majority of his time to the studying and preaching of the Word – so I would suggest that you financially support him and his family.  The others can continue to work in their secular careers and yet still serve the church as an elder, preaching and teaching when needed on a part-time basis, but shepherding the flock full-time in an official and respected capacity.  They will also now be on an equal level with the pastor and therefore be able to offer him the support and accountability that only a fellow elder could possibly provide.  Friends, is this not possible?  Paul preached and worked a separate job for a season when he was with the Thessalonians (I Thessalonians 2:9).  Many of our Old Line brethren do not “pay” their elders.   My point is that there are very practical ways to make plurality of elders work in every church… Not just the ones who have the size and capital to pay multiple full time preachers and elders.  It can be done.

While that may be the most common argument against plurality of elders among our people, there is a second and much more sinister argument that lies just under the surface – pride.  Many of us do not want plurality of elders because that bolsters the position of the elders as the “rulers” of the church in a sense.  They become much more capable as our shepherds and leaders, and if we are honest with ourselves we may find that we do not like that very much!  Most of us have been indoctrinated in good ole’ American pride that tells us that our voice matters just as much as the next guy.  Therefore, we think democratic congregationalism is the greatest way to run a church.  If we think about it, don’t most of our churches look a little bit like the US of A’s democratic republic?  We have all of our members/citizens with equal votes.  We vote on deacons/representatives to handle most our business for us. And we even vote on a pastor/president to lead us (unless he makes the representatives mad and gets impeached).  But ultimately, we hold on to this idea that our voice matters just as much as anyone else’s voice (no matter how spiritually immature and Biblical illiterate we may be).  We don’t want a plurality of elders because deep down we do not truly want to submit to Biblical elder oversight!  If it is pride that stands between us and a Biblical church model, just remember what Paul wrote in Titus 1:5 – “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”  It would surely take authentic and active humility for us to lift up additional godly men as elders over us and to submit ourselves to their leadership and authority…. And it would be very good for our own souls.

There are real and practical hurdles to clear when considering this change… But it can be done.  The conversation just needs to begin… With the Word of God lighting and leading the way!


God bless!