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Category Archives: First Central Bible Church

Is Fellowship With God That Important?

When the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons in overtime in Super Bowl LI three weeks ago, Carol and I watched the game in a pub in Wanaka, New Zealand. Since New Zealand Daylight Time is 18 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, the game came on during lunch time on Monday, February 6.

We were in Wanaka for our youngest daughter’s wedding. On that Monday, the guys went one direction for a bachelor party; the girls another direction for a bachelorette party; and the parents went on a safari of the region. Since our tour ended by 1PM, Carol and I found a pub to watch the Super Bowl.

We learned later that the bachelor party started out at a pub watching the game. Thinking the game would only last 3.5 hours, the host scheduled several adventure activities like jetboating and off-road racing. As it turned out, it meant that the guys left the Super Bowl with five minutes remaining in regulation. Consequently, they missed the Patriots tying the game in regulation and winning in overtime.

Some people view a relationship with God in the same fashion. It is simply one of many good activities and options in their life. As long as heaven is secure, how important is fellowship with God on a daily basis?

That is a question the apostle John addresses in 1 John 2:28-3:3. Using one of his favorite terms, John encourages his readers to abide in Christ. He explains that abiding demonstrates one is part of God’s family and will prepare a person for Christ’s return. Those who abide in Christ will be prepared to meet him when he returns.

Q: Why should I abide in Christ? (2:28a). A professor in grad school was fond of saying, “Until you answer the why question, the price is always too high.” John seems to anticipate that question. After telling his readers, “abide in him,” John goes on to give several reasons after the phrase, “… so that …”

A1: You will be prepared for Christ’s return (2:28b). The return of Jesus Christ will be more than a Sunday School awards banquet. We will stand before God and answer for how we lived our lives. No one wants to be embarrassed because they are unprepared. We want to be able to enter his presence boldly rather than cower in shame in a corner.

A2: Abiding reveals whose family you belong to (2:29). In the same way that a child has their parents’ eyes or nose, so righteous living is the family trait of those who are part of God’s family.

A3: Abiding reveals your attitude about God’s grace (3:1). Rather than view God’s love in a “ho, hum” manner, John expresses a sense of amazement. “Look at that! We are called God’s children. Unbelievable!” Our sense of security comes from recognizing what God has done for us.

A4: Abiding allows God to transform you (3:2). John explains that God is in the process of transforming us from “then” to “now” to “not yet.” One day, we will be like Christ. As great as our experience with Christ is right now, it is only the tip of the iceberg compared to what it will be later.

A5: You will stay prepared for Christ’s return (3:3). John comes full circle when he explains that the hope of heaven produces purity on earth. We are to engage in a continual process of moral purification.

When I became an instructor with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries some 30 years ago, I had to promise not to teach a WTB event with sin in my life. Each time the faculty gathers, there is a ceremony where we are asked to recommit to that promise. Next week, I will be in Georgia where Phil Tuttle, the president of Walk Thru, will ask me if my life is pure. I want to make certain of my answer so that I am not ashamed when the question comes.

In the same way, the one who abides in Christ will be prepared to meet him when he returns. Abide in Christ. Be prepared when he comes back.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 26, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Commissioning of Elders, Deacons, & Deaconesses – 2017

During First Central Bible Church‘s annual meeting on January 29, 2017, the congregation affirmed those who would serve as elders, deacons, and deaconesses in the coming year. On Sunday, February 19, we commissioned these leaders. The following was an insert in the bulletin to guide each group and their response during the commissioning. The ceremony served a twofold purpose–(1) It affirmed and commissioned those who serve in these positions of leadership and service; and (2) It reminded the participants and the congregation as to the high calling and the task of each position.

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ELDERS

Doug Dolbow, Stan Kulig, Joe Martin, Doug McVeigh, Pastor Mark Wheeler

The elders serve as shepherds and overseers of the church. They work together to feed, lead, guard, care, and model Christlike character for the flock.

Pastor Elders
Will you strive to meet the character qualities specified for elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1? We will.
Will you willingly shepherd the flock God has entrusted to your care? We will.
Will you teach biblical truth and sound doctrine? We will.
Will you help equip people for service? We will.
Will you lead the church as overseers, supervising and managing the church well, ensuring that all things are done with integrity? We will.
Will you guard the flock against false teachers? We will.
Will you pray for the sick? We will.
Will you serve as examples of Christlike character for the church? We will.
Will you serve together as a team, sharing responsibility for leadership and oversight? We will.
Will you work together to keep the church focused on achieving the purpose God has called us to? We will.
DEACONS

Dan Darcy, Sid Floyd, Dave Johnson (new), Cliff Moran, J Noyes, Joe Trevathan

While the elders have a fixed job description, the deacons have a flexible one. They follow the direction of the elders and serve alongside the deaconesses wherever needed to help meet the practical needs of the church. This allows the elders to focus on the ministries of teaching and prayer.

Pastor Deacons
Will you strive to meet the character qualities specified for deacons in 1 Timothy 3? We will.
Will you follow the direction of the elders and assist them wherever needed? We will.
Will you help the elders in caring for the practical needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deaconesses to help care for the needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deaconesses to manage the benevolence fund with integrity and compassion? We will.
DEACONESSES

Lynn Anderson (new), Lois Darcy, Rose Eldridge, Janet Laroche, Karen Martin, Marion Moran, Connie Noyes, Carol Sumler

While the elders have a fixed job description, the deaconesses have a flexible one. They follow the direction of the elders and serve alongside the deacons wherever needed to help meet the practical needs of the church. This allows the elders to focus on the ministries of teaching and prayer.

Pastor Deaconesses
Will you strive to meet the character qualities specified for deaconesses in 1 Timothy 3? We will.
Will you follow the direction of the elders and assist them wherever needed? We will.
Will you help the elders in caring for the practical needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deacons to help care for the needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deacons to manage the benevolence fund with integrity and compassion? We will.
CONGREGATION

The congregation is responsible to respect their leaders and submit to their authority. They are to honor those who serve well.

Pastor Congregation
Will you honor the deacons & deaconesses for their service and grant them good standing among you? We will.
Will you obey the elders and joyfully submit to their leadership? We will.
Will you treat the elders with honor and respect since they watch over your souls? We will.
Will you pray that God grants your elders, deacons, & deaconesses a sense of joy as they serve Christ? We will.
 

Defending Against Deception

A knock on the door. A young, well-dressed couple offers you some literature. They ask questions about your spiritual beliefs. They explain things about Jesus that you haven’t heard before.

How do you know if what they say is true? How do you defend yourself against deception? In 1 John 2:18-27, the apostle John explains that those who love God must reject false teachers and embrace the truth.

John expresses his pastoral concern with the affectionate term, “children.” 10 days ago, I stood before my youngest daughter and her husband-to-be on their wedding day. As I took part in the ceremony, I said, “I have some dad things to say and some pastor things to say.” I understand John’s pastoral, fatherly concern and the desire to prepare his flock for what is to come.

John’s statement, “it is the last hour,” raises the question, “Is he talking about chronological time or theological time?” From other passages of Scripture, we understand he is referring to a theological concept. Hebrews 1:1-2 states that the last days began with Jesus. In Acts 2:16-17, Peter said the last days started with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. John now adds a third characteristic to the last days—the rise of opposition. The fact that the church is under attack indicates it is later than we think.

While The Antichrist will come during the period of The Tribulation, John explains that there are many antichrists present today. These folks left the fellowship (18-19), deny the faith (22), and seek to deceive the faithful (26).

John explains that God has given us the Holy Spirit (20) and the Scriptures (21) to keep us on the right path. The Holy Spirit is assigned a teaching role and enables Christ followers to perceive the truth and distinguish truth from error.

John is primarily concerned about warning his readers about one lie in particular—the denial of the deity and/or the humanity of Jesus Christ (22). In John’s day, there were three individuals or groups whose errors he was combating. Gnosticism, Docetism, and a teacher named Cerinthus.

Gnosticism

Docetism

Cerinthus

Spiritual is good; material is evil

Go deeper through “special knowledge”

Jesus did not have a human body; only an illusion Jesus was a man; the divine Christ came at his baptism and left before the crucifixion

Today, we face similar errors taught by Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Christian Science. Of all the world’s religions, Christianity is the only one that affirms both the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ.

Cults & World Religions

 

Jesus

Salvation

Islam A true prophet

Jesus did not die, but ascended into heaven

Salvation is by Allah’s grace and man’s works
Jehovah’s Witnesses A created being

Michael the archangel who became man

Salvation is by keeping the commandments and being part of the church
Mormons A created being

The elder brother of men and spirit beings

Salvation is by doing good works
Christian Science A man in tune with the divine consciousness Salvation is by correct thinking
Christianity Fully God & fully man

Co-equal & co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit

Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone

As John explains, you cannot “have God” without believing in Jesus. If you deny one, you deny the other.

It is not enough, however, to merely reject false teaching. You must also embrace the truth. In verses 24-27, John gives one command, abide, which he repeats twice. We must abide in the truth (24) and we must abide in the Spirit (27). We must ensure that the Bible and the Holy Spirit are welcome in our lives.

We demonstrate the Scriptures are welcome in our lives when we read, study, memorize, meditate, and commit ourselves to obey what it says. We demonstrate the Holy Spirit is welcome in our lives when we are filled with the Spirit and manifest the fruit of the Spirit.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 19, 2017. It is part of series in The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Mismatch Night in Awana

Tonight was Mismatch Night in Awana at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. There were some colorful, fun costumes as a result. During the Christmas season, our Sparks group sent Christmas cards to some of our military troops serving in Iraq. They in turn sent the kids a flag and a certificate. It was pretty special to receive the gift.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2017 in Awana, First Central Bible Church

 

Elders, Deacons, Deaconesses, & the task of Shepherding First Central Bible Church

The information below was presented to the congregation of First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 5. It was designed to better communicate the roles and responsibilities of the elders, deacons, and deaconesses and how we work together to accomplish the task.

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Elders—Doug Dolbow, Stan Kulig, Joe Martin, Doug McVeigh, Pastor Mark Wheeler

The Elders serve as the servant leaders of the church. They share the responsibility of shepherding the flock of God at First Central. The task of the elder includes:

  • Feeding the Flock—Teach biblical truth (Acts 6:1-7); Equip people for service (Ephesians 4:11-16)
  • Leading the Flock—Overseers supervise and manage the church (1 Peter 5:1-2); Manage the finances of the church (Acts 11:29-30; 1 Timothy 5:17-18)
  • Protecting the Flock—Guard against false teachers (Acts 20:28-31)
  • Caring for the Flock—Practical care of the flock’s many diverse needs (Acts 6:1-7); Prayer for the ill (James 5:14)
  • Example for the Flock—Model Christlikeness (1 Timothy 4:12-13; 1 Peter 5:3)
  • Shared leadership—Plurality of elders—collective, shared, or team leadership

Deacons—Dan Darcy, Sid Floyd, Jack Gilbert, Dave Johnson, Cliff Moran, J Noyes, Joe Trevathan

Deaconesses—Lynn Anderson, Lois Darcy, Rose Eldridge, Janet Laroche, Karen Martin, Marion Moran, Connie Noyes, Carol Sumler

While the Elders have a fixed job description, the Deacons and Deaconesses have a flexible job description. They assist the elders in the ministry of the church, serving wherever is needed. Acts 6 shows them caring for practical matters such as ministering to widows.

Shepherding the flock at First Central Bible Church. As a church, our purpose statement is Building a Community to Change the World. We want to take people from where they are to greater maturity in Christ (Colossians 1:28). We want to equip them to use their gifts in service (Ephesians 4:11-16) and to share their faith in a clear, confident manner (Acts 1:8). We want to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) who make disciples (2 Timothy 2:2).

God does not ask one person (pastor, elder, deacon, deaconess) to shoulder this responsibility by themselves. He has asked the body to share the load along with the leaders. Scripture calls us to a “one another” ministry.

At FCBC, we employ a team approach in shepherding the congregation. Our Sunday School classes and small groups play a vital role in our shepherding strategy. In addition to good teaching, you can build relationships where sharing, prayer, and accountability take place. When prayer requests are submitted, a variety of people pray for those needs.

Since not everyone is involved in one of our SS classes or small groups, our deacons and deaconesses then serve as a safety net to ensure no one slips through the cracks.

As you seek to grow in 2017, don’t just attend one of our worship services. Join one of our Sunday School classes and/or small groups. Let people know how to encourage and pray for you. Do the same for them.

Make yourself accountable to those in authority. Allow the leaders and teachers to speak truth into your life. Allow them to help you grow in your knowledge, character, and skills so you can serve and share your faith effectively.

Pray for the staff, elders, deacons, deaconesses, and servants of our church.

Let’s work together to build a community to change the world.

 

Succession planning

Below is a letter I wrote to our elders & wives at First Central Bible Church on the subject of succession planning. One responded to say she was going to file it under email heading that take your breath away. I replied that at least I got her attention. 😉

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Let me say first off that I am NOT planning on leaving or retiring any time soon. I am simply starting the process of thinking and asking questions. When the time comes, I want FCBC to be prepared to make a smooth and effective transition. I want the next pastor to step into a strong, healthy situation.

When I was in California last May for Jonathan’s graduation, my mother-in-law asked me when I was going to retire and I told her, “70.” She wasn’t quite sure how to respond. However, since I will turn 62 while in New Zealand, I have to acknowledge that leaving and/or retiring is somewhere on the horizon. I am closer to the end than to the beginning.

One of the men Carol does bookkeeping for is Tom Fowler of Fowler Financial Services in Bellevue, WA. Tom is an Elder at Crossroads Bible Church and is an old friend. As part of Tom’s business, he counsels families and companies about planning for retirement and succession. He sent me a note over a year ago about a book the Crossroads’ staff and elders were reading on the subject. Tom prompted me to start thinking about the issue.

Over the past 11 months, I have read four books on the topic written to church leaders.

The books were interesting and had some helpful principles and things to think about. The first and last books are written from a large, megachurch perspective where the pastor handpicked and mentored his successor.

At this point, I would ask for five things:

  • Pray that I will know when to step aside. Below is something I wrote in my journal in 2004. The details have changed, but the metaphors are still fitting.

These days I feel like Aragorn of the first two books of The Lord of the Rings—haunted by the failures of the past, fearful of making the same mistakes, reluctant to take on the role for which he was born. I want to be Aragorn of the third book—stepping boldly into leadership, bringing encouragement to the fainthearted, leading a fellowship of people to victory. My fear is that if I stay at I will either become Theoden—listening to the whispers of the enemy and becoming a shell of a man, or Denethor—grasping onto a position of power, marking time, whose senses were dulled to the truth of his situation.

  • Let me know if you sense I am losing my passion and/or losing my effectiveness. Let me know if I am becoming resistant to new ideas and/or change. One of my mentors, Pastor Kent Hughes, retired at 65 for this very reason.
  • Please let me know when we should put this on the agenda and start talking about transitions.
  • Pray that I will be faithful to the task God has called me to.
  • Pray that I will finish well.

Thanks for all you do for Christ and FCBC.

 

Promoting a Sermon Series

Using Wordle, my wife created a bulletin board at church to help promote and create interest for our current sermon series on 1 John. As we enter a new chapter, she adds a new word cloud. As you can see, we are now in chapter 2.

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