1) Organization: Biblical Basis for a Trinitarian Leadership Model
In the Trinitarian God-head, we behold the three Holy persons of the Trinity who relate to His people three particular ways in Creation and Salvation. In the Father we see God’s sovereign control over all things. In the Son we see God’s executed authority among all things. And in the Holy Spirit we see God’s intimate presence in all things.
In regard to Christ himself, the Reformed Confessions often discuss the three offices of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King. His prophetic office represents his spoken authority among his people; His Kingly office represents his leadership control over his people, His Priestly office represents his sacrificial presence with his people.
Teasing out this perspective, Reformed theologian John Frame makes a strong case for affirming the centrality of the Gospel, which is summed up in the reality that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Frame then orients the tri-fold offices of Christ around this ultimate reality. With this perspective in mind, Frame points out that those who are united with Christ are oriented around the reality that Jesus is Lord. In living out this reality, believers may rightly draw analogies between Christ’s offices and their status as believers. As the body of Christ, believers are prophets in the sense that they bear the Gospel message to the world. They are kings in that “all things are theirs” (cf. 1 Cor. 3:22-23), and they are priests in the sense of 1 Pet. 2:8 (what the Reformers called “the priesthood of all believers”). In turn, these offices have been seen as models for church officers: the Teaching Elder or Pastor (1 Tim. 5:17) represents God’s Authority as he administers the gospel through Word and Sacrament; the Ruling Elder (same verse) as he administers God’s Control and management, and the Deacon, who administers God’s Presence through the priestly ministry of mercy.
As a pastor and under-shepherd, my ministry philosophy emphasizes a Gospel-centered paradigm that is shaped by the centrality of the gospel along with Frame’s tri-fold perspective.
a) Trinitarian Leadership Structure
In leading the church, I will also seek to use this perspective. I will execute this perspective through three offices (and ministry areas) of the church.
- Teaching Elders: The Prophetic ministry of the church will be promoted by the Teaching Pastor(s), Ruling Elders, and trained individuals who are able to teach/lead fellowship groups or communities of believers. The emphasis here will be Gospel oriented teaching, counseling, and “gospel-ing” those groups and individuals. Difficult counseling cases will be referred to the Pastors and trained Elders.
- Ruling Elders: The Kingly ministry of the church will be promoted by the Pastor, Ruling Elders, Staff and those whom they choose to assist them. The emphasis here will be Gospel oriented leadership, management, and vision-casting that focuses on church policy, direction, and mission.
- Deacons: The Priestly ministry of the church will be promoted by the Pastor, Deacons and those whom they choose to assist them. The emphasis here will be Gospel oriented service, compassion, pastoral care, mercy, and justice. Their focus will be internal – serving church members and leaders, and external – serving those in the surrounding community and city.
On a side note, I will strongly affirm our Presbyterian system of government. In many ways, the US Republic mirrors the Presbyterian form.
- Similar to US congress, our church Session (which includes the Senior and Associate pastors) is an elected body that legislates policy, and gives direction to the church’s purpose and mission.
- Similar to the US president and executive branch, our Pastors and Staff are an appointed body that executes (or carries out) the policies and direction of the Session.
- Similar to the Supreme Court, the Presbytery works to keep church sessions and pastors in line with God’s Word and the constitution and confessions of our denomination.
However, there is one big difference between the two systems. Even though Presbyterianism is a representative government – when a teaching or ruling elder participates in the deliberations of the session – they are not called to represent the views of those people who elected them. They are called as representatives of King Jesus alone, who is the Supreme Ruler of His church. In keeping with that, the elder’s authority does not rest in the virtue of his office, in himself, or in his personal preferences. His authority rests in the authority of God’s Word alone.
So, Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church and those in the governing bodies of the church are there to seek God’s will and do it, and not to follow the particular opinions and desires of church members. As our PCA Book of Church Order (BOCO) says “Presbyters are not simply to reflect the will of the people, but rather to seek together to find and represent the will of Christ.” [G-4.0301d]
As a senior pastor, I would seek to firmly uphold our Presbyterian form of government and perspective in my leadership style and emphasis.
b) Trinitarian Preaching
In preaching the Gospel of Christ, I will pursue these three realities by preaching God’s Word in a way that is prophetic, priestly, and kingly. My preaching will be:
- Prophetic, in that I will seek to expound and teach God’s Word so that we might understand the text clearly in the context of the Gospel
- Kingly, in that I will seek to apply and give right counsel with the text so that we may rightly apply the Gospel in how we live our daily lives, and
- Priestly, in that I will seek to adore and worship God with the text so that we might rejoice and glory in the presence of Christ.
2) Vision: Reformissional Focus
In shaping the church mission and vision of the church, I will continue to use this three-fold approach.
- Priestly – Engaging people with the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ,
- Prophetic – Establishing people God’s Word and in the Worshipping Community of Christ’s Body,
- Kingly – Equipping the church to live out the Gospel in the sphere of their particular calling.
So, in harmony with this emphasis on a Trinitarian leadership model, I will seek to implement a “Reformissional” focus and vision:
a) Reformissional Pastoral Statement of Purpose
By the mercies of Christ, as lead pastor and under-shepherd of the church, I will desire to glorify God by Engaging people with the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ, by Establishing them in the worship and community of Christ’s Body, and by Equipping them to live out the Gospel as reformissionaries in the sphere of their particular calling.
b) Reformissional Church Vision Statement
By the mercies of Christ, we will seek to glorify God by Engaging people with the life-changing Gospel of Christ. We will do this through gospel-oriented worship, preaching, and teaching; by strategically planning events and ministries that connect with the un-churched; and by encouraging our people to reach out with Gospel intentionality to their surrounding neighborhoods, communities, and businesses.
We will continue this work by Establishing the people we reach in the body of Christ by extending covenantal love to them that is authentic and Holy Spirit led. This means that every member of the church should join in corporate worship of the Triune God-head. They should be known and cared for; leaving no room for favoritism that is based on race, class, nationality, political affiliation, or economic standing. We will acknowledge that people are all sinners in the eyes of God – none of us any better than the other – and yet through the power of the Gospel, we are all forgiven and deeply loved by God. We are more sinful than we know, and yet more loved by Christ than we could ever dare to dream. In the context of Christ’s Body, the people of Christ will worship together, be taught and discipled in the Gospel, healed of past wounds, nourished in grace, and cared for within a covenantal, family context. In assuring the best possible growth, we will give and promote personal care, mercy, and counseling wherever it is necessary.
Being established in the church, I will move further by Equipping our people with a “reformissional” vision to live out the calling of Christ in their particular sphere of life, work, and recreation. In this way, having Christ and His Church as their spiritual foundation and center, the people of Christ will continue to glorify God by becoming an active participant in fulfilling our corporate calling as a reformissional church, and by fulfilling our personal calling as reformissionaries in our every day lives.
c) Reformissional Church Model: Where Worship and Mission Intersect
Church Reformission is the continual reforming of the worship and mission of the church to enhance God’s command to:
- Worship Him in Spirit and in Truth AND
- Engage people with life changing gospel of Christ in a way that acknowledges the unique times and locations of daily life.
This philosophy of ministry calls for a movement of a reformed church to act as a worshipping-missional community that:
- 1) Edifies believers in worship of the Triune God AND
- 2) Mobilizes believers to seek the lost across the street as well as across the globe.
Reformission calls us to maintain a basic tension between:
- A Consciously reformed gospel and
- A Purposeful connection with culture
This two-fold tension will help SPC to navigate between the twin pitfalls of:
- Syncretism (being so culturally relevant that you lose your reformed message) OR
- Sectarianism (being so exclusivistic that you lose your missional focus).
d) Avoiding Syncretism: To avoid a digression into syncretism and relativism, reformed, grace-oriented teaching, worship, and discipleship must be paramount.
A Reformissional theological approach strongly emphasizes:
a.) Orthodox Christology:
- Christ centered focus as the 2nd Person of the Exalted Trinitarian God-head
- The Written Word of Christ (the Bible) as Authoritative over the traditions of men
- The Person and Work of Christ as the central focus of the entire Bible (OT & NT)
- Union with Christ as the Christian’s Covenantal, Life-giving, Source of Power
- The Substitutionary Atonement of Christ as the Christian’s Eternal Mediator, and
b.) A Miraculous Grace-oriented salvation and sanctification:
- Total Inability of people to understand, respond to, or desire the gospel of Christ
- Unconditional Election of Christ’s People from before the foundation of the World
- Particular (peculiar) application of Christ’s atonement to only His people
- Irresistible nature of Christ’s calling to His particular people.
- Preservation of Christ’s people through the continuing application of His Grace.
These theological perspectives are vital and integral to effective mission. If not, the church will become man-centered, inward focused, personality driven, and will drift toward legalism, moralism, classism, nationalism, and racism.
e) Avoiding Sectarianism: To avoid a digression into sectarianism and exclusivism, a Reformissional church must be accessible to common people.
- This means that our teaching, worship, and discipleship must be accessible to people in a style that connects with their every day language and culture.
- This enables God’s people to engage the unadulterated reformed gospel message in a language that they can easily understand, and in a context that easily connects with their every day experience.
- This approach helps God’s people to apply the gospel to their common everyday lives.
f) Congregational Reformissionaries:
A Reformissional church, in order to be effective, must be embraced by an entire church body so that it does not produce a disjointed band of reformissionaries. In a healthy model, the church itself operates as a comprehensive center of gospel reformission in the surrounding community and city that equips every member of the church to operate as a comprehensive team of gospel reformissionaries.
g) Reformissional Axiom:
- Engaging people with the Gospel (Evangelism)
- Establishing people in the Body Christ (Worship)
- Equipping people to live out Christ’s call (Discipleship)
h) Abbreviated Axiom:
- Engage, Establish, Equip
i) End Vision:
By God’s mercy, in Engaging people with the Gospel, Establishing them in the Body of Christ, and Equipping them to live out His call, the entire community in and around Surfside PCA will be transformed. By preaching and teaching the Gospel, and by showing gospel and covenantal love, a dynamic gospel church family will be continuously established and cared for, and many come to know the life-changing gospel of Christ.
Further, I believe – due to our history, strategic location, DNA, and assets – that God is calling us to grow into a large church of 900-1200 members. This particular size will afford us the opportunity to provide resources to the South Grand Strand that are greatly needed:
- A Gospel Centered Counseling Center that focus on family needs, grief counseling, and grace oriented discipleship
- A Preschool, Children, and Youth Ministry that is focused toward the unchurched and loved
- A Dynamic music and arts ministry that is focused on exalting the Triune God
- Hosting gospel-oriented Bible studies, and top-notch conferences, workshops, and retreats
- A robust Missions and Mercy ministry that serves the Grand Strand and World.
May God help us. Soli Deo Gloria!
Tim Melton, January 24, 2018