On June 14th my family and I will be (prayerfully) making our last move under military orders. Our new home will find us in Millington, Tennessee only 20 minutes from my new unit. After 4 years living in our hometown area of Elizabeth City, North Carolina the Lord has sovereignly chosen to move us to another location. We moved to the area with the high hopes that this would be our final destination prior to my retirement but the Lord had other plans.
Through events that have transpired since then we have been blessed to be a part of planting the first and currently only Reformed Baptist church in the area. I have learned much from attempting to plant this church...but those lessons will be laid out in another blog post. A particular burden has been weighing on my heart for over a month regarding this move and my engagement in various forms of street ministry.
Anyone familiar with this blog knows that I am a firm beleiver in accountability to the local church. The secular proverb states "No man is an island unto himself". Likewise, no Christian is a church unto themselves. We are commanded to not neglect gathering together as beleivers (Hebrews 10:25) and those who do not heed this command often find themselves falling into abhorant if not heretical teaching. Every beleiver should be a member of a local church. So then it logically follows that any believer engaged in ministry must be a member of a local church as well. This ensures that they are being held accountable for their actions when engaged in such ministry and that they are under the guidance and counsel of church Elders.
This requires that the Christian be in regular fellowship with that church. If they cannot be seen nor their actions examined by this church and its leaders, they have true accountability. It is common for most churches today to place the membership of a member on hold if they leave on biblical grounds (moving, called to serve in a position in another church, etc.). Typical in Souther Baptist circles is the transfer of one's membership to another church by letter. This occurs when one requests membership in another church and does so by seeking a letter of affirmation regarding their good standing in their previous church. This letter then serves to affirm their profession of faith as observed by another like-minded body of believers. While this is a regular practice the time "in between" means that the individual is not accountable in the biblical sense.
When we are on the streets we are first to be representatives of Christ. What we say and do reflects directly upon Him. Yet we are also representatives of our local churches. Once others know what church we are a member of they will immediately begin associating our actions, both good and bad, with that congregation. When I step up to preach I first mention who I am, what I am there to do (preach the Gospel), and what church I am a part of. This shows them that I am not some rogue lunatic standing on a stool but a professing Christian who submits to a local congregation.
I currently engage in various forms of street ministry under the prayer, support, and accountability of Albemarle Reformed Church. While I link arms with believers and Elders from a fellow church in Chesapeake, Virginia I am immediately accountable to the local church in which I pastor. Because I hold to such a staunch position on the need for biblical membership I have come to a decision regarding my own "in between" time.
Once we depart for our new home in June I will not engage in open-air/street preaching or other organized evangelistic outreaches until I have found a church home for my family and I. Once we have joined a new church I will request time of its leadership to express my desire to continue preaching on the streets and engaging in various forms of external outreach. This will require them to examine me, what I have done, and my desire to continue to do. In addition, if they choose to endorse and support this aspect of ministry I will also be seeking the church's support of every outreach I engage in from that point forward. I am not speaking of financial support but the type of support that endorses me going out as a representative of that church to carry out the Great Commission.
After June 14th I will continue to share the Gospel with others 1-2-1 and by handing out tracts. But in other forms of evangelism, preaching, and outreach I will intentionally wait until the Lord places my family and I in a local church where we can faithfully minister and be ministered to.
As the time approaches, my family and I covet your prayers as we seek the Lord's guidance and direction.
Standing on His promises,