From the desk of Steve Patton
"So I exhort the elders among you... shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight." - 1st Peter 5:1,2
I once received a request for support from the eldership of a church in Birmingham, AL that stated, "We have assumed the oversight of the church in ______, North Carolina." They went on to ask support be sent to them to assist building a building for this small church. I was shocked by the letter. I am sure these men had the best of intentions but it showed a complete ignorance of biblical teaching on church autonomy and the rule of elders. As Peter states in the passage above, the oversight of an eldership is over those "among" them. There is no bible teaching authorizing an eldership to oversee two churches. Why? Actually the why doesn't matter. It's just what God's Word reveals and that should be enough. But, from a practical standpoint consider this: if an eldership can oversee two churches, why not three, or 30, or 300, or all of them? That's actually what happened in following centuries, resulting in a universal head of the apostate church, centered in the capital of the empire - Rome. It is a pattern that is copied in denominationalism today where you find all the congregations subject to a centralized power such as a synod or convention. Such consolidation of power destroys the biblical pattern and God's intention of keeping each congregation independent and autonomous.
The elders of the University church oversee this local church only. They have no intention of seeking oversight of any other congregation anywhere. We are interested in the success of other churches but this eldership recognizes the right of each congregation to govern itself according to God's Word. Let's make sure we always follow this biblical pattern, as we seek to do in all areas of the local church's work.
From the desk of Steve Patton
“For Freedom Did Christ Set Us Free” - Galatians 5:1
Independence and Freedom are words we will hear a lot this weekend. I am presently reading the biography of Alexander Hamilton, and what happened in this country in its beginning struggle for freedom is a remarkable story. But the word freedom has become so ubiquitous that it has almost lost its meaning. It is now used to justify the right to practice anything one pleases without criticism from others. Even in religion many believe that Christ set us “free” to serve him any way we wish. Such an idea does not represent the biblical concept of freedom in Christ.
In our text Paul declares that Christ set us free, but free from what? Context tells us he was discussing the curse of living under the Law of Moses. That Law had no provision for the true forgiveness of our sins. Those who said Christians should continue to live under it were choosing to “submit again to a yoke of slavery” - the slavery of sin. Freedom from the curse of sin is found only in Jesus Christ, not in the Law of Moses. But that freedom does not mean we are free to live as we want. Rather Paul says in verse 4, “Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.” We are not free to live a life of licentiousness. We are rather called to another kind of slavery. Paul says we use this new found freedom from sin that we might “through love serve one another” (5:4). The Greek word for serve in this passage is douleuo - slave. We change our servitude to sin to one of service to one another. True freedom sets us free from slavery to Satan and sin - to become a servant of Christ. No life is more meaningless and empty than one centered upon fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. Christ’s death set us free from its curse to find true forgiveness, happiness and meaning. Be thankful for the freedom given you in Christ. Celebrate it every day by serving God and serving others. Be a slave to righteousness for you have found the free gift of God - eternal life (6:16-23)
Revelation Chapters 10-11
The outline for Revelation 10-11 can be downloaded here.
Revelation chapters 6-7
The handout for Revelation 6-7 can be downloaded here.