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Community Holiness

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Community Holiness
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” ()
FBCR is committed to building a Christian community that reflects God’s peace, holiness, and the power of the gospel in our lives. As we stand in the light of the cross, we realize that bitterness, unforgiveness, division, broken
relationships, and unrepentant sin are not appropriate for the people whom God has reconciled to himself through the sacrifice of His only Son.
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,” ()
A Commitment to the Godly Resolution of Conflict
As always, we look to the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit for guidance on how we can respond to conflict in a way that will honor God, promote justice, reconcile
relationships, and preserve our witness for Christ. As God gives us His wisdom and grace, we are committed to actively teaching and encouraging one another to live out the following principles of peacemaking and reconciliation:
Personal Peacemaking
Whenever we are faced with conflict, our primary goal will be to glorify God with our thoughts, words, and actions, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” .
We must try to get the “logs” out of our own eyes before focusing on what others might have done wrong.
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” ()
Christians should be the hardest people in the world to offend. We have every reason to overlook minor offenses.
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;” ()
We should refrain from all gossip, backbiting, and slander. If we have a problem with someone, we should talk to them, not about them.
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” ()
As Christians we should always strive to make “charitable judgments” toward one another by believing the best about each other until we have the facts that prove
otherwise.
[love]“bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” ()
If an offense is too serious to overlook, or if we think someone may have something against us, we should go to that person promptly to seek reconciliation.
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” ()
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” ()
When we offer a word of correction to others, we should do so graciously and gently with the goal of serving and restoring them, rather than beating them down.
There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health.” ()
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” ()
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” ()
When someone tries to correct us, we should ask God to help us resist prideful defensiveness and to welcome correction with humility.
Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked.” ()
He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.” ()
When others repent, we should ask God to give us grace to forgive them as he has forgiven us.
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” ()
When we discuss or negotiate substantive issues, we should look out for others’ interests as well as our own.
Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures;” ()
Assisted Peacemaking
When two of us cannot resolve a conflict privately, we should seek the mediation of wise people in our church and listen humbly to their counsel (;
). If our dispute is with a church leader, we should look to other leaders for assistance. When informal mediation does not resolve a dispute, we should seek formal assistance from church leaders or people they appoint, and we will submit to their counsel and correction.
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”” ()
When we have a business or legal dispute with another Christian, we should make every reasonable effort to resolve the conflict within the body of Christ through
biblical mediation or arbitration, rather than going to civil court. If the other party attends another church, our leaders should offer to cooperate with the leaders of that church to resolve the matter.
Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!” ()
If a person coming to our church has an unresolved conflict with someone in his former church, we will require and assist him to make every reasonable effort to be reconciled to the other person before joining our church.
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” ()
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” ()
Above all, we pray that our responsibility to be peacemakers will bring praise to our Lord Jesus Christ and lead others to know His infinite love and peace.
A Commitment to Preserving Marriages
So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”” ()
God designed marriage to reflect the beauty and permanence of Christ’s loving relationship with his bride, the church (; ).
Therefore, He established marriage to be a life-long, exclusive relationship between one man and one woman (). God also designed it to provide mutual companionship through life’s joys and difficulties, to create stability for raising and nurturing children, and to give strength and cohesiveness to society in general.
In our society, marriages fail under a wide range of circumstances. Many people have gone through a divorce before having a relationship with Christ, and others have experienced divorce through no desire or decision of their own. Still others have divorced because of their own wrongful choices, but they have since experienced the repentance and forgiveness offered through our Lord Jesus.
We want all of you to know that you are welcome in our church. Because our church recognizes both the divine origin of marriage and the devastating effects of divorce, we are deeply committed to preserving marriages and preventing divorce. Toward this end, we will devote a significant portion of our preaching and teaching ministry to strengthening marriages and families. We require and provide thorough premarital counseling to ensure that couples enter into marriage advisedly and are well-prepared for its many challenges.
One of the reasons we require that members participate in a Home Group is to provide a context for fellowship and accountability in order to promote spiritual growth, love for God, and love for our spouses. As relationships deepen within these groups, we expect husbands to spur each other on in loving and cherishing their wives and wives to encourage one another in respecting and loving their husbands.
FBCR’S pastors and Home Group leaders are committed to providing counsel and support to couples who face marital difficulties. We will discourage couples from using divorce as a way to run away from issues that instead can be resolved through Spirit-guided counseling, repentance, forgiveness, and ongoing discipleship.
We recognize, however, that there are times when God permits a believer to seek a divorce without sinning against God or a spouse. We believe divorce is permissible when the other spouse has been sexually involved with a person outside the marriage () or when an unbelieving spouse abandons a marriage ().
Even though divorce is permissible in these situations, it is not required. God patiently bears with our sins, repeatedly calls us to repentance, and freely forgives us when we turn back to him (; ).
When divorce becomes an option, the offended spouse can imitate God’s love by offering a sinful spouse these same evidences of grace (). This may involve patiently bearing neglect or lovingly confronting serious sin (; ). In some situations, love may require asking the church to initiate formal discipline to rescue a spouse and a marriage from the devastating effects of unrepentant sin ().
Just as church leaders are involved in beginning a marriage, they should be involved when it ends. Therefore, when someone is considering divorce, he or
she is expected to bring the situation to the elders and cooperate with them as the elders determine whether grounds exist, promote repentance and reconciliation, and exhaust redemptive discipline, if appropriate. As a matter of wisdom, separated spouses who have filed for divorce should consider themselves married until the day a civil court issues a divorce decree. It would also be wise to refrain from dating or any other activity that is inconsistent with being married.
We are always interested in helping divorced people restore their previous marriage if that is possible and appropriate. We will support a decision to pursue a second marriage to a different person only when we have determined that it is biblically valid and that every reasonable effort has been made to seek and grant forgiveness of the sins that contributed to a previous divorce.
We rejoice that divorce never diminishes God’s free offer of love, grace, and forgiveness. He cherishes and loves every person who has been unwillingly divorced, as does our church. God graciously extends this same love to those who have wrongly left their marriages. That love moves Him (and us) to call them to repentance, to encourage and aid reconciliation when possible, and to gladly restore those who have done all they can to rebuild broken relationships.
However, if the person has remarried, we would, by all means, encourage him or her to honor that second marriage.
A Commitment to Protecting Our Children
“The prudent sees danger and hides himself...”
Children are a blessing from God, and He calls the church to support parents in their responsibility to train children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Therefore, the church should be a safe and blessed place for children where they can grow, play, form friendships, and learn to experience and share the love of
Christ. Since sin affects every person and organization in the world, however, it is possible that children could be harmed even during church activities. We cannot guarantee that such things will never happen within our fellowship, but we are committed to taking every reasonable precaution to protect our children from
foreseeable harm. This commitment includes, but is not limited to, the following steps:
Service Requirements in Youth Ministries
We do not allow anyone to work regularly with our youth (children or teenagers), unless he or she is a formal member of FBCR. We require all of our youth workers to complete a detailed application and screening process, which includes a criminal background check.
Accountability
We require that, whenever practical, youth workers serve in teams of two or more and be visible to other workers.
Member Responsibility and the Civil Authorities
If a child is harmed in our church, we will take immediate steps to inform the parents, to accept responsibility for our role in the situation, and to hold offending youth workers fully responsible for their actions, which will
include informing the appropriate civil authorities. We will also evaluate our practices and procedures, considering changes that might reduce the likelihood of such harm to children in the future.
A Commitment to Biblical Counseling
Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” ()
All Christians struggle with sin and its effect on our lives and our relationships. Whenever believers are unable to overcome sinful attitudes or behaviors through personal efforts, God has provided additional means of grace to help, including Christian brothers and sisters in the local church and, when needed, church leaders who have the responsibility of providing pastoral counseling and oversight (see ; ; ; ; ).
Therefore, FBCR encourages its members to seek counsel from and confess sins to each other and to church leaders. We believe that the Bible provides thorough guidance and instruction for faith and life (). Therefore, our counseling is based on scriptural
principles rather than those of secular behavioral psychology or purely chemical determinism. Unless they specifically state otherwise, none of those who counsel in this church are trained or licensed as psychotherapists or mental health professionals, nor should they be expected to follow the methods of such specialists. A pastor may, in the best interests of the counselee, recommend that
they be seen by a physician.
God calls our leaders to set an example for us “in speech, in life, in love, and in faith and purity” (). Therefore, we expect them to treat counselees with every respect and courtesy, and to avoid even the appearance of impropriety or impurity during counseling (). We also expect counselees to promptly report to the elders any conduct that fails to meet this standard.
A Commitment to Confidentiality
A talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.” ()
The Bible teaches that Christians should carefully guard any personal and private information that others reveal to them. Protecting confidences is a sign of Christian love and respect (). Scripture discourages harmful gossip (), invites confession (), and thus encourages people to seek needed counseling. Since these goals are essential to the ministry of the gospel and the work of the local church, all members are expected to refrain from gossip and to respect the confidences of others. In particular, our leaders will carefully protect all information that they receive through pastoral counseling, subject to the following guidelines. Although confidentiality is to be respected as much as possible, there are times when it is appropriate to reveal certain information to others. In particular, when our leaders believe it is biblically necessary, they may disclose confidential information to appropriate people in the following circumstances:
Additional Wisdom
When a home group leader is uncertain of how to counsel a person about a particular problem, he should seek the advice of the pastors. Likewise, a pastor may need to seek advice from other leaders in our church, or if the person attends another church, from the leaders of that church ().
Protection
When the person who disclosed the information, or any other person, is in imminent danger of serious harm unless others intervene ().
Sanctification
When a person refuses to repent of sin and it becomes necessary to promote repentance through accountability and redemptive church discipline ().
Legal Obligations
When leaders are required by law to report suspected abuse ().
A Commitment to Church Discipline
Accountability and Discipline Are Signs of God’s Love
God has established the church to reflect His character, wisdom, and glory in the midst of a fallen world (). He loves His church so much that
He sent His Son to die for her (). His ultimate purpose for His church is to present her as a gift to His Son; thus Scripture refers to the church as the “bride” of Christ (). For this reason the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are continually working to purify the church and bring her to maturity ().
This does not mean that God expects the church to be made up of perfectly pure people. He knows that the best of churches are still companies of sinners who wrestle daily with sin. Therefore, it would be unbiblical for us to expect church members to live perfectly. What we can do, however, is confess our common struggle with sin and our mutual need for God’s mercy and grace. We also can spur one another on toward maturity by encouraging and holding each other accountable to love, seek after, and obey God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as we love ourselves ().
The Bible refers to this process of mutual encouragement and accountability as “discipline.” The Bible never presents the role of church discipline as negative,
legalistic, or harsh, as modern society does. True discipline originates from God himself and is always presented as a sign of genuine love.
For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”” ()
Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, And teach out of Your law,” ()
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” ()
God’s discipline in the church, like the discipline in a good family, is intended to be primarily positive, instructive and encouraging. This process, which is sometimes referred to as “formative discipline,” involves preaching, teaching, prayer, personal Bible study, small group fellowship and countless other enjoyable activities that challenge and encourage us to love and serve God more wholeheartedly.
On rare occasions God’s discipline, like the discipline in a family with growing children, also may have a corrective purpose. When we forget or disobey what God has taught us, He corrects us. One way He does this is to call the church to seek after us and lead us back onto the right track. This process, which is sometimes called “corrective” or “restorative” discipline, is likened in Scripture to a shepherd seeking after a lost sheep.
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”” ()
Thus, restorative or corrective discipline is never to be done in a harsh, vengeful, or self-righteous manner. It is always to be carried out in humility and love, with the goals of restoring someone to a closer walk with Christ (; ), protecting others from harm (), and showing respect for the honor and glory of God’s name ().
Biblical discipline is similar to the discipline we value in other aspects of life. We admire parents who consistently teach their children how to behave properly and lovingly discipline them when they disobey. We value music teachers who bring out the best in their students by teaching them proper technique and consistently pointing out their errors, so they can play a piece properly. And we applaud athletic coaches who diligently teach their players to do what is right and correct them when they fumble, so the team works well together and can compete for the championship. The same principles apply to the family of God. We, too, need to be taught what is right and to be lovingly corrected when we do something contrary to what God teaches us in His Word. Therefore, we as members of the local church must be committed to listening humbly to loving correction from each other or
from any member in our church, and, if necessary, to submitting themselves to the corrective discipline of the body of Christ.
Most Corrective Discipline is Private, Personal, and Informal
God gives every believer grace to be self-disciplined. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (). Thus discipline always begins as a personal matter and usually remains that way, as each of us studies God’s Word, seeks Him in prayer, and draws on His grace to identify and change sinful habits and grow in godliness.
But sometimes we are blind to our sins or are so entangled in them that we cannot get free on our own. This is why the Bible says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” ().
In obedience to this command, we are committed to giving and receiving loving correction within our church whenever a sin (whether in word, behavior, or doctrine) seems too serious to overlook ().
If repeated private conversations do not lead another person to repentance, Jesus commands that we ask other brothers or sisters to get involved. “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” ().
If informal conversations with these people fail to resolve the matter, then we may seek the involvement of more influential people, such as a Home Group leader, Ministry Team leader, or pastor. This is all for the sake of bringing life and restoration to the member given over to their sin.
Formal Discipline May Involve the Entire Church
While all sin is serious and can involve the intervention of others in the church, there are certain sins that necessitate a more formal process. We call this “Church
Discipline.” Paul writes in “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.” ()
This seems to suggest that while one sin might demand intervention (e.g., pride or laziness in fathering), some sins if committed without regret or repentance can
result in being removed from the church.
The process by which this happens is found in . There we read that if an individual persistently refuses to listen to personal and informal correction to turn from speech or behavior that the Bible defines as sin, Jesus commands us to “tell it to the church” (). This first involves informing one or more of the elders about the situation. If the offense is not
likely to cause imminent harm to others, the elders may approach the individual privately to personally establish the facts and encourage repentance of any sin they discover. The individual will be given every reasonable opportunity to explain and defend his or her actions. If the individual recognizes his sin and repents, the matter usually ends there, unless a confession to additional people is needed.
If an offense is likely to harm others or lead them into sin, or cause division or disruption, the elders may accelerate the entire disciplinary process and move promptly to protect the church (; ; -
11).
As the disciplinary process progresses, the elders may impose a variety of sanctions to encourage repentance, including but not limited to: private and public admonition, withholding of the Lord’s Supper, removal from office, withdrawal of normal fellowship, and as a last resort, removal from membership (; ; ).
If the straying individual does not repent in response to private appeals from the elders, they may inform others in the church who may be able to influence that individual or be willing to pray for him or her, as well as informing people who might be harmed or affected by that person’s behavior. This step may include close friends, a Home Group, a social group, or the entire congregation if the elders deem it to be appropriate (; )
If, after a reasonable period of time, the individual still refuses to change, then the elders may formally remove him or her from membership and normal fellowship. They also may inform the church body of their decision and instruct the congregation to treat the individual as an unbeliever. This means that we will no longer treat him as a fellow Christian. Instead of having casual, relaxed fellowship with the individual, we will look for opportunities to lovingly bring the gospel to him, remind him of God’s holiness and mercy, and call him to repent and put his faith in Christ (; ; ).
We realize that our natural human response to correction often is to hide or run away from accountability. To avoid falling into this age-old trap and to strengthen our church’s ability to rescue us if we are caught in sin, we must agree not to run away from this church to avoid corrective discipline. Therefore, we waive our right to withdraw from membership or accountability if discipline is pending against us. Although we are free to stop attending the church at any time, we must agree that a withdrawal while discipline is pending will not be given effect until the church has fulfilled its God-given responsibilities: to encourage our repentance, to facilitate restoration, and to bring the disciplinary process to an orderly conclusion ().
If an individual leaves the church while discipline is in effect or is being considered, and the elders learn that he or she is attending another church, they may inform that church of the situation and ask its leaders to encourage the individual to repent and be reconciled to the Lord and to any people he or she has sinned against. This action is intended both to help the individual find freedom
from his sin and to warn the other church about the harm that he or she might do to their members (; ; ).
Loving restoration always stands at the heart of the disciplinary process. If an individual repents, and our leaders confirm his or her sincerity, we will rejoice together and gladly imitate God’s forgiveness by restoring the person to fellowship within the local church (; , , ;
).
People who have been excluded from another church will not be allowed to partake of the Lord’s Supper in FBCR until they have repented of their sins and made a reasonable effort to be reconciled, or until the elders have determined that the discipline of the former church was not biblically appropriate.
As we pursue the blessings of accountability and church discipline, we will hold fast to the promise of Scripture:
For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” ()
A Commitment that Brings Joy to Us and Glory to God
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” ()
The call to holiness is one that demands a persistent and corporate effort. We will not merely drift into becoming in our experience what we are by his deliverance: “a holy nation.” Yet, our labors toward this end are not the painful drudgery of embittered slaves. For us they are a proclamation of the “excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We once lived in a dead-end darkness, but now we have tasted “his marvelous light,” and that means joy for our once-dead souls. When God’s people look and act like “a holy nation” it brings great glory to the one who said, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” ().
Key Concepts and Terms from this Session:
Personal Peacemaking
Assisted Peacemaking
Charitable Judgment
Marriage
Divorce
Re-marriage
Biblical Counseling
Confidentiality
Church Discipline
Pray
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