Speaker: Tim Bollinger
Scripture: 1 Timothy 3

From the series What is Church?

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So once again, we’re so glad that you’re with us today. And if this is your first time here, let me just warmly welcome you to Shepherd’s Gate. In fact, right after the service in our West lobby, we have refreshments. Ben and I will both be out there. We’d love to meet you. Shake your hand, learn a little bit more about you, and just thank you for joining us today. If you’re watching online, you can jump into any of the chats. There’s chat hosts there that can answer any questions that you may have about our church is today. We’re in the second part of a two part sermon series that we’re doing here the end of June. And we kind of designed the sermon series in conjunction with the fact that as we just mentioned, Ben, who is up here assisting with the baptism, is going to be ordained as a pastor in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

But he’s also going to be called and installed as our associate pastor here at Shepherds Gate at 3:00 later today. So I hope all of you are planning to be here. Is that correct? Right. Can we just give Ben a hand and got a hand for what he’s doing is like. And it’s so cool because we have his good friend, Pastor Matt, who flew all the way in from the state of Washington. He’s the one that’s going to be giving the sermon this afternoon and doing the actual physical ordination. So can we think, Matt, for being here as well, thinking. So again, if you’re a guest, this is a little bit different than our normal Sunday morning sermons. Usually we’re in sermon series. And so this one is just again, specific to what is actually taking place later here today. And we don’t get to do this often. So it’s usually about every ten years, something to this magnitude comes along. 

And so we just felt it was appropriate to take this time to explain to you maybe a little bit more about our church and and how our church is wired, what our church is connected to specifically the denomination and the network of churches that we’re connected to. So that when you come back later today, you’re going to see some more formalities in the service. There’s going to be things that maybe you haven’t seen us to you here at Shepherds Gate, and we just believe this is going to help give you that context. So again, we hope that you’re able to join us. Last week, Ben actually preached and talked about what it means to be the church and the church as far as being the community of believers and how all of us have been called by God in faith, through faith, to be part of a local church community.

And so he went into detail on that, did a great, incredible job. So if you weren’t here last week, I’d encourage you to go back and look at that message. But we also know that church is not only made up of its members, it’s also made up of pastors and staff and leaders. Because what happens if a church doesn’t have a pastor or you don’t have pastors? If you’re able to have more than one pastor, usually a church begins to go into decline and there’s lack of vision. And so we know biblically that God has called and positioned pastors to for a specific role, to be that to be that voice of truth, to be able to proclaim the gospel each and every week and administer the sacraments, as you just saw in baptism and you will later today as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Those are our two sacraments here at Shepherds Gate Baptism and Communion. And so before we get into that, I want to pull back for a moment because you might be wondering, okay, does any of this really apply to me? And, you know, am I just learning about this stuff? And here I want you to understand how this does actually impact you. But let’s look at this together. 10%, according to Gallup of our population, are natural leaders, and another 20% possess leadership traits. So you put those two together and what do you get? And so if 30% of the population are leaders, what’s that mean for others? And so what percentage are followers? So who has the majority of followers? Okay, so some people love being a leader. They feel God is equipped and called them to be a leader. Many people are perfectly fine being followers. They they get that. Maybe they’re not wired that way. And those gifts don’t necessarily align with the gifts that God has given them. And when you look at our society, when you look at all the positions of leadership, you can kind of narrow it down to these kind of five areas. Political leaders, right. 

Do we have political leaders? Yeah. Did anybody watch the two old guys on Thursday night arguing about their golf handicap? Anybody ever scratched their head and go, what world? And my living in civil leaders. We have civil leaders that are that are therefore good medical leaders, educational leaders and, of course, spiritual leaders. But not everyone will come under the leadership of a spiritual leader.

Many people, they don’t go to church. Many people want nothing to do with any type of organized religion. And so in the world that we find ourselves in in 2024, I would submit these two realities to you based on this list. There’s a lack of trust in all positions of leadership in our society. Do you agree with that? Yeah, I mean, it’s true, but with the Internet, with the way things are going, we question everyone and everything. And here’s the other reality that we’re living in. 

The church is in decline and it’s heartbreaking. Denominations, church bodies, nondenominational churches are all trying to figure out how this COVID thing impacted us. And now here we are, you know, four years later. And and where society is headed specifically in our context here in the United States. Now, again, if you don’t know, the church body that we belong to is called the Lutheran Church, Missouri Senate. Can you guess why it’s called Missouri Senate? Yeah, because it started in Missouri. Great, great job. These Germans got on some boats and they came up the Mississippi and they landed in this place called Perry County, Missouri. And that’s where our church body actually began. And here we are many, many years later. We’re actually part of what’s called the Michigan district. And so that’s actually what’s taking place later today. It’s much bigger than even what’s happening here at our church as we gather for for Ben’s ordination, as he has been going through schooling these last two years, through the Lutheran Church, Missouri Senate, flying out to our seminary in Saint Louis, being on so many calls and having to dig deep and study to get him to this point. So he would not have gotten to this point if if we weren’t connected to the church body that we’re actually connected with. 

And so we’re so excited about later today coming back in here and being able to celebrate what it is that God is doing in his life. But also equally important is that you, dear Church, are the ones that are calling him to be your pastor. I want to make sure that you understand that we are not part of a church body where there’s a bishop or someone above us that just tells us what church we can go to. So no one can ever come and tell Ben. You now have to go serve in Hawaii. And I know that he would never do that.

Stephanie, you would never, ever move his wife to Hawaii. Would you know, you the church calls him and says, we want you to preach to us. We want you to administer the sacraments. We want you to be our pastor. And you’re going to hear that language as we gather later today. If you weren’t able to get tickets for the banquet, unfortunately, it completely sold out. If you’re not planning to come to the banquet, there are some people that really, really want to go and they’re bummed they couldn’t go. 

And so if that’s you, could you just tell the welcome center after the service? Because there are some people that would really want to be part of celebrating. Ben after our formal ordination service. And also as we’ve been encouraging the last couple of weeks, if you want to bless Ben and his family, it is certainly appropriate to write his family a card. And if you want to include a financial contribution, write him a check or give him a gift card or whatever that may be for you. If the Holy Spirit leads you to do that, that’s just a way for us to be able to come alongside them and bless him as God is working in his life. So some good. So here, going back to our denomination, the Lutheran church, Missouri Synod, this is what I want you to know today. In 2018, the average worship attendance in our country, coast to coast was 119, and in 2022 it dropped all the way to 55. That’s significant, isn’t it? 25% of our congregations and of those actually worship fewer than 25 people on an average Sunday morning.

And not only so as they do the analysis, as they look up of the average age of our members, our church body continues to get older and older and older. And so you look at these statistics and this has been trending this way for a good 50 to 60 years, you ask yourself, okay, God, what is going on? And is there something that we as a local church here in Shelby Township, is there something that we can do? And how can we be a part of turning this around? And God, how do how do we come alongside these other churches in our areas that may be struggling to be able to assist them and then something interesting happened just this last November, as part of our staff went to a conference in Grand Rapids that was led by our Michigan district. Now Michigan district, we were not is the largest district, even though it started in Missouri. There’s so many Lutherans now that are part of the church body that Michigan is the biggest district and so there was 1200 people at this conference. And our district president put this slide up and I pulled out my cell phone as quick as I could.

I took a screenshot of this slide because I wanted you to see the reality of what’s actually taking place, not just in our church body, but right here in the Michigan district, in our state. Those in the back, can you see it? So this is the average worship attendance of all the churches in Michigan. In 2009, there were 28 churches that consistently worshiped 500 or more. And in 2022, that number dropped to eight 71% affected by this. Look at the churches from that are 250 to 499, 58 churches in 2009 and drops to 23 churches. Those of you that are good with numbers. Where’s my numbers, people? This is not good news, is it? This is heartbreaking. And when he saw this, I literally became emotional at my table.

I said, wait a second. This is this is this is not where we want the church headed. And why are so many people leaving the church in so many different reasons and people will blame different things. And, you know, they’ll say, well, here’s the reason and here’s the reason and here’s the reason and here’s the reason. And organizations like Gallup will do polls and they’ll try to figure this out. 

And really what it comes down to is more and more people, they’re just giving up on God. They pray to God. They ask God for their prayer request to be to be heard and to be answered. And then God doesn’t answer their prayer. And they just say, you know what? I guess I don’t need God. And if I don’t need God, then why would I waste my time going to church? I’d much rather go to my cottage, much rather go on my boat much rather just sit in my backyard and enjoy my Sunday. And we are trying to figure out is it church here in Shelby Township? What has God called us to do in? How have we been strategically placed so that we don’t become another statistic? Amen. Here’s the crazy part. North America is now the third largest mission field in the world. The gospel is blowing up in other parts of the world, in Africa, and on other continents. It’s absolutely incredible to see what’s taking place to the degree that other countries are strategizing on whether they need to send missionaries to America because of the decline of the church in America. 

I would submit to you, I think part of it is we have somehow embraced this culture where people come to church and they sit, they listen and they leave. They sit. They listen and they leave. They sit. They listen and they leave. The church isn’t connected to each other. The church doesn’t understand its mission to be deployed out into the community and around the world, sharing the love of Jesus and rubbing, rubbing shoulders with people and serving alongside people and helping people understand the hope they can have in Jesus. Now you remember last week, Ben went through a list of different kinds of churches. You guys remember that? And we were talking about how there’s all different kinds of churches and different kinds of focus. So we thought we’d have some fun this morning as well. And now we look at different kinds of churches. What have we looked at? Different kinds of pastors. Like, what kind of pastor do you think I am and what kind of pastor you think Ben is? 

He’s good looking and we know that, like, what really, truly is is the way that we’re wired. So think of this. How would a TV pastor why would like a TV pastor? Oftentimes there’s a prosperity gospel, which is give God money, He’ll give you more. And these guys, you know, tend to wear fancy suits, drive private planes, and the focus is all on money. And let’s be honest, that’s a turn off for people because people will say, well, that’s why I don’t go to church, because all the church wants is my money. How about this one that’s kind of served a celebrity pastors, pastors that are really popular on social media. And so you have a whole movement of people that stop going to church and instead they just follow whoever their social media celebrity person is to get their spiritual fulfillment, even though they have no connection to that. Pastor Hey, some pastors are really smart theologically. I mean, they’re studied. They know the scriptures inside and out, and they’re great preachers of the word. This is one of my favorite pastors because I had some of these growing up in my life. I call them teddy bear pastors. Anybody know what I’m talking about? 

A teddy bear pastor they love and they hug everyone and they know everybody’s name in the church like they just and they usually look like Santa Claus. I don’t know why, but that just seems to come with it. And they’re just unbelievable when it comes to connecting with people. And they’re CEO pastors that are pioneers and they’re visionary and they’re strong leaders or even missional pastors that see their greatest purpose as encouraging their congregation to get out and to fulfill the Great Commission and to get out and to serve others in their community. So, again, which one of these do you think, Dennis Guys better come back today at three. Which one of these do you think I am, or is it a mix of some of them? Because what you find in is very fascinating. Scripture actually gives you the job description of a pastor. And again, we don’t preach on this very often. And today would just be a perfect day to explain what this entails for us as a church. And so there’s a guy named Paul who’s an apostle. 

He’s writing this to Timothy, who who’s becoming a pastor. And so here are the words that he gives them. He says, here’s a trustworthy saying Whoever aspires to be an overseer, you want to be a leader. You’re actually desiring a noble task like you feel that God has called you to be a leader of people like realize of the weight of that responsibility. He goes on to say, Overseer is to be above reproach. What does that mean? What does it mean to be above reproach? It’s funny. The 9:00 was quiet on this one too, weren’t they? By your life as a pastor, as a leader has to reflect Jesus Christ in who he is and what it is that he has done. And so you have to conscious leave, be analyzing every situation that you’re in. Not that you’re perfect, not that you never sin, but realizing the example that you set forth by the title that you have been given as a pastor. Now we have a policy here at Shepherds Gate. I started when I became a lead pastor seven years ago, and there’s times when people really struggle with this policy because sometimes it’s difficult for the staff to function in their roles. 

And the policy is this It’s called the male and female alone policy. And so because I’m the lead pastor, I get to create these policies. We do not allow anybody on staff, male and female, that are not related to each other to be alone, ever. Two people can’t get in a car that are on staff, a male and a female, and get in a car and drive anywhere together. They can’t go have lunch appointments together. If two people are in the building together, then one of them actually has to leave. And I’m very insistent on this policy because I get tired of seeing how many pastors and church workers get caught up in sin. And what usually ends up happening is they compromise their marriage, they blow up their marriage, and then, of course, they’re no longer pastoring or they’re no longer serving as a church. And I’ve had too many friends go through this. And wouldn’t you know that just a couple of weeks ago, two more pastors in the state of Texas pasturing large churches were both removed from their pulpits. And the reason for this is because the devil has a target on the back of every single pastor. Did you know that he does not want us to gather? 

He loves that statistic the district president shared. He loves that the church is in decline and that he can get people away from each other and not worshiping the one true God. Church workers have a mark on their back by the devil. Everyone who is a follower of Jesus, the devil is pursuing and trying to do this, kill, steal and destroy. And part of his philosophy, because he’s really smart and he’s very tactical, is to convince you that pastors aren’t any good anymore. Pastors are irrelevant in going to church is irrelevant, and you don’t really need any of this. And it’s all part of what we are seeing take place in our culture, which is why so much more we have to fight against this. We need to push back against this. We need to continue to proclaim the gospel in the truth, and we need to continue to love people with our whole hearts and our whole lives. Now, look what else is in here. Faithful to his wife is first that interesting because that’s the one that that seems to get a lot of people caught up in sin self-control, respectable, hospitable. There’s the teddy bear part able to teach, not given to drunkenness. It’s not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome. And by the way, not a lover of money. 

How do you think that’s a good list for a pastor or a leader? How do you see that being that it also says he must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. Because if you don’t know how to manage your own family, how in the world are you going to care for God’s church? We all agree with Paul on this one, too. He must not be a recent convert or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. Ben has been through one heck of a process these last two years, and not because he’s a recent convert, but the amount of schoolwork and studying that he has done to prepare him for this moment is truly remarkable that there is a process that people go through to be placed in certain leadership positions in the church. Look at the next one. He must also a good reputation with outsiders. Well, who are outsiders? 

Nonbelievers, people that don’t go to church. But the pastor should actually have a good reputation. And so how do you have a good reputation with unbelievers? You have to spend time with unbelievers. So Ben and I can’t just live at the church right. Think of this because I have been working with our denomination. I served on the board of the Michigan district the last five years, and we’re so interesting about being on the board is you often find out all of kind of the muck and junk that sometimes pastors get themselves in. And there’s a church that had just recently called a pastor and the pastor had only been there a few months and he hired a company to come in and redesign the office space. And the way that he redesigned the office space is he moved his office to the back of the of the office area. And he put in a hallway and he put in a door that only he had the key to get into that hallway, which is where his office was. And he told his church, don’t bother me unless it’s an emergency. Like that’s what I’m back there to do is to study. And his congregation and frustrated with him, said, What in the world are we supposed to do? 

So of course, they called the district office and they’re trying to sort this out and figure out like, I thought you wanted to be our pastor. I thought you wanted to be with us. This scripture tells you not only should they be with the people, but they should also be with those that aren’t yet followers of Jesus. Here’s the official definition Pastor. Serve in the Office of Holy ministry. The one secret office given by God for the sake of a church. They proclaim forgiveness, preach and teach God’s Word. Administer God’s life, giving sacrament, Communion, baptism, and provide faithful pastoral care to His people. That’s what you want out of a pastor. And not only so, but we have an obligation to figure out who the young men are in our church, who the Holy Spirit is stirring, that they would then begin the process of becoming pastors. See, not only are our churches in decline, but there’s less and less men going to the seminary and there’s pastors that are retiring early or just quitting ministry altogether at an alarming rate.

And so church, when I talk about our church being being on the forefront of this and trying to figure out how we can push back and fight so that we don’t become just a statistic. This is exactly what we’re trying to position ourselves to do. We are blessed that we have not one but two young men here at Shepherds Gate that are pursuing pastoral ministry. Here’s the two guys, Josh and Tim. Josh on the left here is going to be going to school this fall. He’s going to start his undergrad and he has his sights on becoming a pastor. Tim on the right already has one year in and he’s going to continue studying and he has his sights on being a pastor. And we thank God that we have young men in our church that feel God calling them into pastoral ministry. Can we give these two guys a hand this morning? Listen, maybe you’re here today and you’re a junior high or a high school student, and maybe God is stirring your heart and maybe you’re you’re just sensing that maybe going into church work and all going all the way to the to the level of becoming a pastor may be something that God is speaking to. 

You come talk to Ben. And I mean, we would love to talk to you about that. Trust me, when I was in junior high in high school, no one ever thought that I would be a pastor. Okay, Same thing. Same exact thing. Your mom actually told me that no one ever thought, even our own moms, that we would ever be gone. Here we are. That’s the way. The Holy Spirit works. Look, it also says it says in the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine. Isn’t it interesting that that’s in this one, too? Like, the same way, if he’s going to repeat this phrase not pursuing dishonest gain, they must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. Now, if you don’t know what a deacon is, a deacon is somebody that specifically assists pastors in a local congregation and they come alongside of us and they help us with some of the pastoral duties. Here’s that. Here’s what here’s the job description. But you got to test them. And if there’s nothing against them, then let them serve as deacons. And so many of you, you were here Memorial Weekend and you were here MORIAL weekend. 

You saw Chris McCartney actually shared God’s Word with us. And I’m excited to be able to tell you that just a couple of weeks ago, he went through his interview. And so now he is actually become a deacon in the Michigan district and specifically assigned here to Shepherd’s Gate Church. So we have got praise for Chris. What you might not know is we actually have three other men that are currently studying to deacons. This is Pat’s. Jim Corbett’s here on the left, Paul Stickle in the middle, and this is Joe GETLER on the right. And all three of them are currently in school studying so that they can better serve our church. And so, again, there’s maybe some of you here today and you feel like something’s missing or you feel like you have more to contribute, that God may be putting something more on your heart, come and talk to us. We would love to even talk to you about our Deacon program because this is what we have to do. We have to build the infrastructure. We have to have the leaders in place so that we can continue moving our church forward. And finally, it says in the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers, which I don’t. Why did you say this one? 

For the women, but temperament and trustworthy in everything and on your way in, you got that card that has all the leadership positions here at our church. And I’m so thankful that we have godly women serving in so many different ministry areas in our congregation. Ladies, in here, some of you, you know, you’ve been gifted by God, You have visions, you have ability to organize things, you have abilities to lead teams. And and for us here at Shepherds Gate, we know we know that there’s so much more potential at our church. There’s so much on potential untapped potential, which is why we keep asking ourselves what kind of church do we actually want Shepherds Gate to be? At the end of the day, if people were to ask, you will tell me about Shepherds Gate, tell me about your church, how would you describe it to them? And this is what we keep coming back to. We keep saying this. This is who we are. If your news is going to be great, we are a confessional and a sacrament church. 

This is what connects us to our church body. That as we confessed this morning, as you heard us give a confession in the Apostles Creed that this is what we believe to be true about our one, true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that our confessions and what we believe about the Bible, that the Bible’s inspired Word of God, that it doesn’t contain errors, that this is what has the power to change and transform our lives, that we don’t get to go and manipulate and make it say what we want it to say? No, it says what it says, and that’s what we base our lives on. That’s all part of our confessions, again being sacramental baptism in communion. But yet somehow, by God’s grace, we’ve been able to do it in a modern and relational way, which isn’t typical of our church body. But the reason we are expressing our worship of God the way that we do is because that’s how this church started in 1980. 

That was the way that the founders envisioned shepherds Gate being a unique expression of the gospel in our community. And so that’s why you hear us constantly talking about inviting your friends, inviting those that don’t know Jesus, and doing services and having opportunities for people to connect with young families while simultaneously also sending our church out into the community to serve. Because this is what it comes down to. It’s understanding what it is that God has called the leaders in the church to actually do. And it’s Paul again who writes to the church and emphasis and he says it this way and he gave these gifts to the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. So all of these leadership positions have been given in order to equip the Saints. Guess who the saints are? So that means Ben and I don’t do all the work. You just come sit, listen and leave. We can’t do it without you. Our job is to proclaim Jesus, administer the sacraments, to equip you for the work of ministry so that the body of Christ may be built up to form. That you would be disciple, that you would know God, and you would continue to. 

To see the love and the grace, the mercy that He has for you, and also that you understand your purpose is so much greater than you even realize with your time here on this planet. And again, that’s why you all have that leadership card. It was just a few months ago we handed you the booklet that had all of us serving areas of our church and we had the big serve there. And really, so many of you have been so incredible to sign up for that. And we’ve never really had an opportunity to actually tell you or show you, Hey, these are the leadership positions and roles in our church and the people that faithfully serve in these positions. In fact, if you serve in one of our leadership roles or positions, I know you’re not going to want to do this, but I’m just going to do it anyways. Would you just go ahead and stand at this time so we can recognize you? Go ahead. If you if you serve in a leadership position at Schaeffer’s, I know you’re all hesitant because they never want to. There we go. Can you just give them praise this morning? And finally, this is important because if you want to know the unique way in which we raise up leaders here at Shepherds Gate, it all goes back to my good friend Jeff Beech, who’s been a member of this church for a long time.

And seven years ago when I became the lead pastor and I went around and I talked to all of the various small groups that we have here at Shepherds Gate. And one of the questions that I asked our church at that time is what advice do you have for the new lead pastor? What he said just solidified what I believe God was calling us to do and how we were at structure leadership here at the church. And this is what he said to me. He said, Tim, you need to delegate. Then he paused, and then he said, And then you need to delegate again and then delegate some more and then do it again and never stop delegating. And I’m thankful to be part of a church community where when we put people in leadership positions, we them the ability to lead those areas. Some of you have incredible skills. God has gifted you in the vocation that you’re in, in that now you can use that education and those gifts to be a blessing to our church that more and more people would come to know Jesus because people are actually operating in their giftedness is actually incredible, isn’t it? 

So we thank God for all of you that serve here at Shepherds Gate, because this is what Jesus said. At the end of the day, I’m going to build my church. His church, fuck Tim’s church. It’s not Ben’s church, it’s God’s church. The God, you are the center of this place. And we want to be aligned with your will God. We want to preach in a way that is honoring to you. We want to administer the sacraments in the way that you called us to. We want to challenge our congregation to be the people of God that you want them to be. God help us to be your instruments in our our in our day, in our age, more and more people would come to know Jesus, a man.