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A Swift Kick: Four Reasons Why You Need to Be at Family Meetings

One of the strengths of our church is our commitment to meaningful covenant membership. One of the weaknesses of our church is our lack of commitment to meaningful covenant membership. Not in every way, but in a big way.

I was in a meeting recently where a team of men, including elders, were eager to shepherd the flock in a mission-critical area of church life. “Where can we bring our congregation along in this?” one brother asked. Another replied, “Well, there are only about 30% of our members at Family Meetings.” I did some research, and he was about right. We have 558 members, but in February we had only 212 members present to vote on elders and deacons. Might that be the exception? I checked. Laying that next to the two previous Family Meetings, it was high by as many as 60 members. At one meeting we had only 157 members present to affirm a matter brought to the members by the elders. Yikes.

Brothers and sisters, that’s not healthy. In fact, it’s dangerous.

What’s the Big Deal with Family Meetings?

The name, “Family Meeting,” may be a bit misleading. To some it might sound like a nice way of saying, “business meeting,” or a meeting for dealing with the hard stuff. Maybe that’s repelling. To others it might sound like a bonus event. Like, the tailgating before or after the game.

I wondered if we hadn’t been clear as to the nature or importance of Family Meetings. But we have. We can do more, but from our membership class, to membership interviews, to the constitution, to digital and Sunday morning reminders, we state and restate that these are basic to church life and expected for members.

I think we just need a swift kick on this one. That’s what this post is: a kick in the form of some Scripturally rooted reasoning and exhortation. I thought of posting a mere encouragement to participate in family meetings. But I think the kick is needed, and there will be plenty of encouragement along the way.

Let’s start with this question: why do we have Family Meetings?

Here’s a way to put it: because we as members at Heritage have certain responsibilities to one another that we mean faithfully to honor. In other words, as we’ve ordered church life here at Heritage, Family Meetings are a part of the game itself. And you as a member aren’t merely a spectator but player in that game. Regular attenders are invited to join and observe, but, formally speaking, the family here are members at Heritage who have certain covenant responsibilities to one another. There are many ways to pray, and our Evening Prayer services are one way. But there is only one way we are ordered to fulfill several specific responsibilities together and Family Meetings are that way.

What are those responsibilities? “Responsibilities” can sound like a bad word, I know. Like “chores.” I’m tempted to say, “privileges.” But let’s stick with “responsibilities” and consider the privilege that it is to share responsibilities to one another as members of a local church. Here are four that are uniquely fulfilled in our Family Meetings.

1. We have keys to use

That’s probably not the first thing you thought of when you thought of family meetings. But consider that if we had only one reason to meet, it would be this.

In Matthew 16, Jesus says to Peter, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (18–29). Family Meetings are where we bind what is bound in heaven. In other words, this is where we formally affirm and receive new members into our membership. It’s why we read out loud our covenant of fellowship together. This is our opportunity to pray for and to personally greet each of our new members upon presentation as members. This is both a privilege and a responsibility of the members at Heritage fulfilled in our Family Meetings.

How do we know it’s us as the church who exercise these keys of the kingdom? Matthew 18 describes the process of loosing this way:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 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 he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (15–20, emphasis added).

It’s hard to imagine a more serious responsibility given by Jesus to his church—what we call, “church discipline.” In what context do we, “tell it to the church”? Put another way, in what venue do you learn about the spiritual danger of a brother or sister and receive the charge to pray and seek their spiritual restoration? In what venue do we agree to “treat them as a Gentile” in order that they may be saved? Speaking about the church’s responsibility regarding a proudly unrepentant adulterous man, Paul says this: ”When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1Cor. 5:45).

That’s Matthew 18 applied to the Corinthian church “when [they] are assembled.” Not, when some of them can get together. At Heritage we don’t, “tell it to the church,” on Sunday mornings. We do that in Family Meetings. For obvious reasons, we won’t publish ahead of time what we’ll be sharing along these lines. That’s why we need to count on you being there. Family Meetings are where we exercise the keys to the kingdom.

If we can’t say who is and who isn’t a Christian, then it means nothing to be the church together. Family Meetings, for us, are where we protect the purity and the very definition of what it means to be the church.

2. We have leaders to find and follow

Here’s one responsibility that is to your advantage: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb. 13:17). In as much as you take the lead of your elders, they are heartened and your soul is helped. Win/win.

Family Meetings are one of only a few basic ways your leaders at Heritage lead you. Our public corporate gatherings are not the venue for everything we need to say or explain or do. There are certain exhortations we need to give, certain plans we need to bring you in on, and certain decisions for which we seek your input and affirmation. Sometimes that’s through a vote. Voting, by the way, is not reflective of a democratic process, but a means of discerning and expressing shared agreement in the Lord. Family Meetings are basic to all of this.

Our elders meet twice monthly for several hours each meeting, and between those meetings our elders are present at their Shepherding Groups, present in the hospital, and present on their knees in prayer for you. One reason to come to Family Meetings is to fan the flame of their joy and love in care for you. Family Meetings help them serve us. That, in turn, benefits you and our church.

What happens if we’ve got bad leaders? Well, that’s a problem. That’s also where Family Meetings come in play. There’s a prudential process for identifying and appointing biblically qualified elders and deacons, and this process involves the congregation’s affirmation of all appointments. The Family Meetings are where agree together in the Lord concerning who will lead us.

Perhaps family meetings at times seem boring or uneventful. Consider this: maybe that’s because they’re working. In a church without family meetings (or in a church with poorly attended family meetings) confusion, rumor, and distrust increases. Our present attendance percentage is why your elders can invest time in shepherding and communicating on a topic, and then spend months answering questions and addressing points of confusion. Our present attendance percentage puts our whole church in a precarious position.

3. We have encouragement to exchange

Here’s another high-stakes responsibility: “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24–25). This passage tells us two things. First, other members of our church need your active encouragement in order to persevere in love and good works until the coming of Christ. Second, you need the active encouragement of your brothers and sisters in order to persevere in love and good works until the coming of Christ.

This responsibility is easy to neglect, but the health of the church hangs on it. This verse doesn’t mean you need to be at everything going on at Heritage. But, as I hope you’re beginning to see or remember, Family Meetings are where some of the most important things we do take place. You need to share and hear stories of God’s grace in the lives of fellow members. So, if you want to grow in love and good works, and if you want our church to grow in love and good works, go to church on Sunday morning, and put Family Meetings on your calendar.

4. We have a mission to fulfill

Finally, Family Meetings are like the war room for our shared labor in seeking the salvation and rescue of the lost from sin and hell.

We’re well familiar with Jesus’ words Matthew 28:18–20, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This Great Commission requires great energy, and often great planning. Jesus told us where to go, to the nations, but he did not give us a roadmap. Thankfully, we have one another. That great commission wasn’t merely for individual disciples on their individual missions. Disciples run together, send together, go together, and partner together. Wherever disciples were made they were congregationalized into local assemblies. And it is in that context of local church gathering and strategizing that the great commission is advanced. In Acts 16:5, we read that “the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.”

In Acts 2:42­–47 we have this beautiful and compelling portrait of life in the earliest days of the church:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul . . . And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.”

Don’t miss how it ends in verse 47, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” As we gather and strategize and pray, may our Lord do that among us. Family Meetings are a needed venue for uniting our church family around a biblical strategy for reaching the nations.

Dates for your Calendar, Children, and Getting in the Game

Friends, let’s not just improve that statistic. 50% or even 60% attendance by members would be an improvement, but that wouldn’t make our Family Meetings fulfill their important biblical role for our church. We’ve got some ideas for the months and year ahead for how to elevate the importance of Family Meetings in the life of our church. We need to address some doubled-up programming and ways to communicate more clearly and early on these meetings. But, for your part, go ahead now and plan to be there.

Put these dates on your calendar for 5:30PM on the following Sundays:

  • April 29
  • July 29
  • September 30
  • December 30 (tentative)

As you put those dates on your calendar, prepare yourself for the presence of children—yours or someone else’s. If you’ve got kids, we offer nursery care for the really little ones, but bring the rest. We’ve got a seat for them. It’s good for them and it’s good for the rest of us to have them there. We’ll work to keep our meetings to an hour (with some exceptions), you work a little on their behavior, and we’ll all be ready to flex for the privilege of having them observe and learn.

Remember, you’re not a customer or a client here at Heritage. You’re a partner. You’re not a spectator in the work of the church, but a player. Spectators can miss a game. Players, but for obvious exceptions, never miss a game (of course, there will be times when you can’t be with us. We’ll trust you with that). Better still, you’re a part of this family. I don’t invite my children to dinner. I don’t offer them reasons why they need to join us at the dinner table. They just show up.

We have souls that need watch, a mission that needs strategic advance, and keys to exercise for glory of Christ in his church.

Closing Up Colossians: A Prayer for Fullness in Christ

One of the commands in the book of Colossians is that we would “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful I it with thanksgiving” (4:3). We’ve heard God’s voice in the book of Colossians. Now, let’s pray a concluding prayer through the book.


For the saints (1:1–2) and faithful brothers and sisters at Heritage Bible Church—a prayer.

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give thanks (1:3–9) to you for the faith and love you work in our hearts because the hope you have laid up for us in heaven. This hope is ours because of the gospel which we have heard and which we have believed. The gospel which came to us by those who opened their mouth to teach it, like Epaphras did when he came home to Colossae. A church was born in that place and a church was born in this place. This gospel is indeed growing in us here at Hudson and Old Spartanburg, and it is growing throughout the whole world. We are ever-thankful for your ever-growing, hope-giving, love-compelling, and faith-fueling gospel.

And so we ask of you to fill us up! Fill us up so we might fully please you (1:9–14). Fill us up so we might bear fruit for you. Fill us with wisdom and your will so we might walk worthy of you. This kind of life is not natural to us. At the same time, we acknowledge that we are beset by many challenges, large and small, self-inflicted and trouble from others. For this we need endurance and we need patience. This is a profound spiritual work that we are asking for. But we know that you are glorious in might and so we ask you to strengthen us with your power. But more than strength for endurance, strengthen us for joy. This is a bold prayer, but we know we can pray it because of what you have already done for us: you have qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. You delivered us from the darkness we loved and you transferred us into the kingdom of the Son whom you love. You forgave us of our sins in order that we might please you with our lives. Be pleased with your lives.

Father, for this we need vision. Only a full vision of Christ will yield a fully pleasing life. So make Jesus Christ preeminent (1:15–20) in the spiritual vision our church. Fill us with a vision of Christ preeminent in creation, for he existed before all things and all things were made through him and for him. But not only is he the builder, architect, and owner of the creation, but of a whole new creation. He rose from the dead, the Son of God incarnate, in order to raise a new people for a new world. Fill us with a vision of Christ preeminent in his new creation, full deity and full humanity for our full redemption.

Christ’s preeminence is highlighted by who he reconciles and to what extent he reconciles them. His reconciliation is a total package reconciliation (1:21–23). Nothing is missing. We were alienated from you, but through him you will present us above reproach. We were hostile toward you, but through him you will present us holy. We were doing evil deeds, but he died so that we would be blameless. The work of your Son was complete to save us completely from complete ruin. What’s left for us to do? Only to hold onto him, to keep believing in him, never to shift from our great hope in him.

Christ is indeed preeminent, even when it doesn’t look like it. How is Christ preeminent when his apostle, for example, was in chains? Is this a delusion? Profound thoughts, but pretend? No. Christ suffered for his church, and Christ called his apostle and us to suffer for the sake of his church. Pain and prayer and proclamation go together. And we proclaim him by warning and teaching everyone in order that every member might be made mature in him. This is the heart of gospel ministry (1:24–29). For this we toil as elders and for this you supply the energy we need.

As an elder among elders, I pray that the saints at Heritage would know our struggle for them. And may this struggle result in their encouragement, in the knitting of their hearts together in love, and in the full assurance of all that is theirs in Jesus. There is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from him, and indeed he is a treasure whose riches will dazzle us for all eternity. This is what we want (2:1–7): may they know our struggle, may they know Christ, and may they know better. From everywhere it seems come plausible sounding arguments that nevertheless steal this treasure from us. The worst kind are the kind we think up ourselves.

Oh make us to walk in Christ, and because make us to watch out for these lies! Root us and ground us in him so that we will not shift. Give us hearts of thankfulness that overflow from fullness in this treasure. Give us spiritual strength to see and resist every empty lie that would take this treasure and take us captive. If we have Christ, what could we possibly be missing (2:17–15)? Surely nothing! If we are filled with Christ we are filled with the very presence of God, for the whole fullness of deity dwelled in him bodily and Christ fills us. We have undergone spiritual surgery in the circumcision of our hearts and we have been raised to new life, dramatized beautifully in the sign of baptism. If we are filled with Christ we have the full forgiveness of sins. They are cancelled forever, for they were nailed to his cross. If we are filled with Christ we share in your full triumph over every enemy and force. He took our shame and put Satan to open shame. There is no spiritual power or life to be found apart from him. Let us not be deceived. Let us not be taken captive. For we are missing nothing.

We know what we have in Jesus, Father, but we need to be reminded repeatedly and specifically. For, until Jesus’ new creation work is complete, there is a pull in our heart and in this world away from this gospel. Human visions of Christ and maturity in him threaten to embed themselves like ticks in the skin of your church. One nasty infection is legalism, or the problem of add-on Christianity (2:16–23). Oh the havoc that this wreaks on the souls of so many. At least as dangerous as licentiousness, but cloaked in the clothing of Christ. A poison that, once it enters the body, famishes God’s people. Rules and regulations that God has not laid on his people, laid on his people by his people, but never for his people. Only for pride. A peer-pressurized environment follows where we begin to imagine what it takes to please others rather than God, and where we lose confidence in God’s Word because apparently there are things we need to do or not do that he has hidden for us in the minds and teachings of men. You have warned us about this, not so that we may proudly claim invulnerability, but because we are indeed ever vulnerable. Show us our sin in this. Make us to be self-suspicious.

Some among us may seek to be ultra-Biblical (2:16–17), holding rules and regulations over their brothers which Christ brought to an end as if his death was not sufficient. Give us spiritual strength to reject their judgments. Some among us may seek to be super-spiritual (2:18–19), insisting on special spiritual experience, from asceticism or the worship of angels. But while spiritual vitality is on offer, they forget the only source of nourishment for the body of Christ, which is, of course, Christ. Give us the spiritual strength to reject the disqualifying verdicts of self-appointed spiritual umpires, to remember that you have qualified us in Christ. Some among us may seek to be extra-pure (2:20–23) through the piling on of wise sounding rules about what we can and can’t touch, taste, or feel. But these don’t hold back sin. This is nothing more than self-made religion. We submit to Christ and not man. Protect us from those who would seek to bring spiritual maturity apart from spiritual means. Remind us to ask, “is this something for which Christ died, or is this something for which I or someone else wishes Christ died?”

But how exactly do we mature in Christ? There are wrong ways, but what is your way? How may we be more firmly rooted and grounded in him for a more faithful and fruitful walk for your pleasure? If maturity in Christ comes by the proclamation of Christ, and if the proclamation of Christ requires warning and teaching, then we need both warning and teaching. Indeed, we have been warned. Now, teach us what you have taught us in this letter. Where can we find the power for the life you require? Union with Christ is indeed power for life (3:1–4). Raised with him, now hidden with him, we will on day appear with him. This world is not our home and so we seek the things that are above. Union with Christ; power for life.

Union with Christ is power to put off (3:5–11) the earthly lusts of sexual sin and covetousness, and all cruelty, including anger, malice, and slander. And it is power us to put on (3:12–14) the radiant clothes appropriate for church, befitting the holy and beloved children of God, right even for the new creation—compassionate hearts, humility, patience, forgiveness, and holding them all together like a belt, love. As we grow in maturity, make us a genuinely Christ-centered community (3:15–17). Christ, the center of gravity in everything, ordering, balancing, and energizing our life. May the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. May the word of Christ dwell in us as we sing about him to one another with all kinds of songs and one heart full of thanksgiving. And may his name mark everything we do.

Power us for full maturity in our specific roles. May wives (3:18–19) submit eagerly, expectantly and respectfully to their husbands. And may their husbands be famous for their sacrificial, overt, and compelling love for their wives. May our children (3:20–21) obey their parents in everything, knowing that this is how you provide for them, protect them, and prepare them for life. May parents among us parent as seems fit but never provoke their children. Much ruin comes on account of non-existent or alternatively excessive or inconsistent disciple. And much ruin comes on account of unclear and unreachable expectations. And much ruin comes on account of hypocrisy, aloofness, and harshness. And may those under authority (3:22–4:1) fill their roles with sincerity and heart, and may those in authority lead as those who share the same Master in heaven. May we all find meaning in the mundane, for all our labor is seen and received by Christ.

All of this is very difficult. All of this will require endurance. All of this you have commanded. And all of this you have empowered through the gospel. And that’s why we pray to you (4:2). For you are the God who cancels our sins, gives us new hearts, reconciles us to yourself, makes us new creations, and fills us with assurance and hope—all though union with Jesus Christ. We ask you in prayer: transform our lives as we treasure this truth, and transform our church as we treasure this truth together.

There are others to pray for as well. Father, you are the God who opens doors. Open a door for us (4:3–6). You opened a door to us and sent preachers of the gospel to proclaim Christ. Open a door for the gospel in our neighborhood and in our community and to the ends of the earth that we may proclaim Christ to all. Open a door and that we might speak clearly as we ought. As we live among our neighbors give us wisdom as we live and grace as we speak to commend the gospel we preach. Give us insight into the specific people we meet, and give us gracious and seasoned words so that we may know how to answer each one, for each one is precious. As we walk in wisdom, may we win some for Christ.

Finally, we rejoice in the gospel’s growth around the globe through partners and churches and friends(4:7–18). Encourage the Brooks family as they hear of how we are doing and encourage us as we hear reports from Gospel Hope Church. Encourage the Farmers and the Hansens on the field so many others in the same way. As they have time, may they tell us about how they are doing and all that you are doing in them and for them and around them. Many faithful, hard working servants like Epaphras come to mind: Matthew Hoskinson, Jonathan Matias, Tim Lovegrove, and others. May grace be with them, and may the gospel grow in Alexandria, in Menifee, in New York City, in Columbus, in Brighton, in Mauldin and in Moore and in Greer. Give energy. Give encouragement. Assure them fully in all the will of God and may they fulfill the ministry that they have received from the Lord.

Christ is our heritage. May he be preeminent here. And may we be ever thankful to you for him.

It’s in his name we pray,