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Parental Discipline With A Destination

Parental Discipline With A Destination

Editorial Comment: Read a more developed version of this piece at Christ Over All: “Talking To Our Children About Discipline.”


There is more to parenting than discipline and there is more to say about discipline than we explored last Sunday. Nevertheless, discipline in the home is of profound importance for our children’s earthly and heavenly good. It is God’s prescribed means to both and we neglect it to the peril of our children.

To that end, here is a recap of Sunday’s sermon, “A Father’s Discipline,” from Hebrews 12:3–17 with some resources for your help and encouragement.

The Word on Discipline

Sunday’s sermon was not about discipline in the home. Rather, Sunday’s words about discipline in the home were about the Lord’s discipline of his children. The author of Hebrews simply assumes that this is our common experience, a means of understanding the Lord’s ways with his people. Nevertheless, this is an important opportunity to ruminate on the nature and importance of discipline in our homes.

To that end, here’s an outline of Sunday’s sermon tilted in the direction of help for parents with paragraph pep-talks based on the work we did together in that sermon.

I. Discipline is not for everyone (12:5–8)

Discipline is an immense privilege. When God disciplines us, we’re told, “God is treating you as sons” (12:7). Discipline says something to our children: you are mine! It is a form of proof. Others may feed and shelter my kids for a time, but no one else will discipline them according to God’s Word (Prov. 13:24; 22:15; etc.). It says more than that they belong to us but that they are dearly loved by us. Discipline is not a form of rejection but a means of receiving our children by which they know they belong to us and to our families. For this reason, while discipline may instill fear in our children, we should not discipline from wrath. Rather, we should discipline from a controlled determination to love our children to maturity through discipline that is both corrective and formative.

In all of this, in the home as God designed it to be, the father takes primary responsibility. Both mother and father will discipline and should do so on the same page, but it is the father’s authority that stands behind the mother, for he is the head of his home. Discipline, let us remember, is not the first thing about parenting. It must be paired with and typically preceded by instruction. Neither is discipline the last thing about parenting, for it is not the goal. Rather, both instruction and discipline are for the sake of our relationship, just as our Father in heaven disciplines us so that we may know and enjoy him. Let us give discipline to our children and then let us give ourselves to them as the reward for that hardship.

II. Discipline is for our good (12:9–10)

Discipline is not only a privilege, but it is productive. When God disciplines us, “he disciplines us for our good” (12:10). That’s what we’re after just the same: the best interests of our children. Godly discipline in the home leads our children not only to respect authority in general, but to respect us as parents. More than respect, discipline in the home leads to fruit of peace in our homes—peace between us and our children, between our children and one another, and we pray between our children and the Lord. We do not save our children pain in the truest sense by forgoing discipline for whining, as an example, only to yell at them in disgust when we’re fed up. Discipline leads to peace. This is true even when our parenting is less than perfect. In fact, the text acknowledges this when it says of our parents, “they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them” (12:10). This clause indicates a measure of flexibility in our parenting, as we consider our children, our marriages, and the circumstances. Let us for this reason help one another without judging one another. We will each stand before God for our parenting, not for one another’s parenting—a help to friends and grandparents alike.

Equally, though, this clause nods to our fallibility (in contrast to God’s perfection). Our work of parenting is never co-extensive with God’s Word on parenting. Our timing, consistency, temperature, proportionality, and motivations are often off the mark. Let us labor tirelessly for our children’s good in each respect, but let us do so acknowledging that our practice is never as good as the principles we’re implementing. Understanding this brings a humility that saves our children from many forms of tyranny and allows us to grow and change so we get better for their sake. We are doing God’s work, but we are not gods. That’s good for this preacher and imperfect parent to hear as one who had to stand up recently and talk about parenting. As much as anyone, we need the Lord to bless our parenting more than we deserve. Marvelously, God uses our best and yet imperfect discipline for our children’s good.

III. Discipline is only for a moment (12:11)

Finally, discipline is periodic in nature. It is painful, yes, or else it is not discipline. Think about that, parents. Maybe love pats don’t work because they aren’t really discipline. Maybe inconsistency leads our children to bet on the possibility that we will let them off and in that way weakens their reflex for obedience. Discipline is painful and that’s God’s design. But, thankfully for everyone’s sake, if it is appropriately painful it need only be for a moment. On this matter of timing, it’s also important to note that the season in which parents can shape their children through discipline is short.

Thankfully, though, when discipline is over, our children are better for it. Not only better for this world but better for the next. While discipline is for the moment, by way of analogy with how the Lord works with his children, the experience of godly discipline in the home is a means of training our children to know their heavenly Father in heaven. Discipline wires their moral sensibilities, sensitizes their consciences, and provides a real-life model of how the Lord relates to them. Discipline is for the moment, and in this way it is also for forever.

Some Words on Discipline

I am not an avid reader of parenting books. I am an avid scanner and rummager through parenting books. Most of our parenting in our home has come like most yours: by way of a few Bible verses, constant conversation as a couple, and timely counsel from friends in church. Let’s make sure we’re talking together, sharing notes and strategies, and promoting faithfulness to all the Bible says.

Nevertheless, here are some resources I’ve found helpful over the years. Cherry pick what to read or listen to and when. Cherry pick what you plan to keep and implement.

Gracious Grief

If I have done anything in this post, I hope I have disabused us of the notion that discipline in the home is contrary to grace that’s good for heaven. If discipline is from hatred or interested in externals alone, then it most certainly is. But in that case it is also not discipline as the Bible understands it.

No, discipline is for our good—our earthly good and our heavenly good. Let us give ourselves to it. And let us give ourselves wholly to our children.

You pray for me and I’ll pray for you.

Meet Sarah Asire, Our New Women’s Ministry Director

Meet Sarah Asire, Our New Women’s Ministry Director

On behalf of our elders, I am thrilled to introduce you to Sarah Asire, our new Director of Women’s Ministry. For a little over five years, Liz Stratton served in this role. When we sent Abe Stratton out to preach an hour away, of course, his family went with him. What a gift the Strattons have been.

But the Lord always has more gifts for his church, and Sarah is one of them. Our Women’s Ministry is thoughtfully designed, lovingly led, and centered on the Word. It’s also a strategic way in which our elders are shepherding our women—and by extension our families, our children, and our church—in the Scriptures.

The Women’s Ministry Director role is a member of our staff team. Whenever a role opens up like this, our elders ask a number of questions. Importantly, what does this minsitry need from a leader? In this ministry, we need a woman who can protect the vision, a woman who is excited about shared leadership, a woman with tested administrative chops, and importantly a woman of the Word. Also, while this role is mostly behind-the-scenes and supportive of other leaders, this woman must be able to speak for and to women and to our church as appropriate. Sarah is wonderfully suited for this assignment.

If you don’t know her already, we want you to know Sarah. If you already know Sarah, no doubt you’ll want to know her better.

With no further ado, Sarah, her story, and the how and why of women’s ministry at Heritage.


Sarah, thank you for taking some time to introduce yourself. Let’s start with your family and family life. Introduce us to your people and what each of you are up to these days. 

I really appreciate this opportunity for the church family to know more about me and my family. Chad and I have been married for 19 years and we have been blessed with three wonderful children. Haddon is our 15-year-old son who enjoys playing JV baseball for the Greenville Hurricanes. He loves aviation and would like to be a pilot in the Air Force someday. Kaelyn is 13 and loves spending time with her friends and is a great babysitter. Our youngest is Addison, who is 9 and full of drama that keeps us all laughing. Since moving to Greenville, Chad has been working in construction. Most of my time is spent homeschooling our three kids and I also occasionally work as an RN in Urgent Care.

Tell us how you got here. How did you come to faith in Christ and how did you come to Heritage in Greenville?

I had the blessing of growing up in a Christian home. I was the 3rd of 4 girls in my family. My parents valued God and the church, and we were there whenever the doors were open. As a child I strived to please my parents and teachers, often struggling with a proud motivation of looking like a “good Christian girl” mainly to please those around me.

When I was 12 years old I attended a youth event where I remember being extremely convicted when the preacher spoke on taking ownership of your walk with the Lord and that we are not Christians because of the faith of our parents. I was convicted about my prideful heart and saw myself as God sees me—a sinner, deserving punishment. Only Christ’s perfect sacrifice could provide the payment for my sin. I asked God for forgiveness in Jesus’ name and I was baptized shortly thereafter.

I attended Bob Jones University from 1998-2002 and God continued to work in my heart and life as I continued to battle a prideful motivation of pleasing others over God. God brought me to the realization that he cares more about my heart than about the appearance of external obedience.

I met Chad after graduation and we were married in 2004. We lived in Atlanta, Georgia until 2006 when we moved to Portland, Oregon to help in a small suburban church. This was such an amazing time of growth for us in our individual lives and in our marriage. Being so far from all of our friends and family deepened our dependance on God, one another, and our church family.

In 2020, God began impressing upon our hearts that we needed to make a change in our children’s education. Our kids had been in public school up until this point and when they began learning virtually we had a window into their classrooms and it was deeply concerning to us. Also, my father passed away during this time and left my mother and elderly grandmother as they were in the process of moving from Atlanta to the Greenville area. Through much prayer and discussion, we decided to move back east to be closer to family and allow me to homeschool our children.

We were already familiar with Heritage because Chad had attended while he was in college and we had tracked with the church during the six months prior to our move. When we moved to Greenville in July 2021 we arrived on a Saturday and the very next day attended Heritage for Sunday morning worship. We were so confident that this was the right place for our family to grow in the Lord and serve him that we never went anywhere else.

You have some background in church ministry and in ministry to women specifically, including your time at Heritage. Tell us that story.

I have always loved being a part of women’s ministry. I value the opportunity to gather around the Word as women and grow in our love for God and in our love for one another.

In 2018, my husband Chad encouraged me to take a leadership role as part of the women’s ministry team in the church he was pastoring. This was a very stretching and challenging time for me. One of the greatest things that God revealed was that I needed to grow in my understanding of the Word and the great privilege of assisting women in this as well. I wanted to help the women I was serving to go beyond a superficial reading of the Bible, and believe with the Lord’s help, they could be great students of the Word. We hosted a Bible Study workshop for the women based on Jen Wilkin’s book, Women of the Word, to provide practical tools for women who had never been taught to study God’s Word. We also transitioned to using some better resources in order to go deeper into the Word. Just prior to moving, I had gifted the two other ladies on our women’s ministry team with the book, Word-Filled Women’s Ministry, by Gloria Furman & Kathleen Nielson with a prayer that God would continue to grow the ladies in this important task. I also felt the need to continue to grow in my exposition of the Word.

I remember as we were driving through California on our cross-country move I got a text from my sister telling me about a Simeon Trust Women’s Workshop, which just so happened to be scheduled at Heritage. I wasn’t familiar with Simeon Trust but as I looked into it I was eager to participate and attended the workshop at Heritage that fall. I was so encouraged and excited by what I learned and felt better equipped to study God’s Word.

I also began participating in our women’s Bible study in the fall of 2021. My first opportunity to lead a small group was for the women’s Bible study last fall in 1 & 2 Thessalonians. This spring, I again led a small group for the Psalms study and have had the opportunity to teach two of the large group sessions. If you had told me 10 years ago this was where God was going to lead me, I would never have believed you, but by his grace alone he has equipped and grown me in ways I never thought possible.

The heart of our organized women’s ministry is our women’s Bible study. For those less familiar with our plans and purposes, why is this central for us and how does it work?

One thing that drew our family to Heritage was the central focus on the Word in all aspects of ministry. This is the case for Women’s Ministry and specifically in the women’s Bible study where we endeavor to equip women to know, love, and live out the Word. The Women’s Ministry hosts an annual banquet each year around Christmas, a retreat for women every two years, and a handful of smaller gatherings for our women. But the heart, as you said, is the Bible study, which informs all of our interactions in those other venues.

This question is focused on the shape of our Bible study. But I should say first that the women’s Bible study is not intended to be the primary source of Biblical teaching for the women of Heritage. The primary point of instruction for all of our members is the Lord’s Day gathering. The women’s Bible study is supplemental, bringing women together of all ages for all kinds of guided and healthy interactions around the Word—interactions we pray that will shape our roles in the home and the church as disciples of our Lord.

Our women’s Bible study is a Bible study. We provide content that is accessible to women at all stages of their spiritual walk. Typically, we alternate between material written by gifted women in our own body and material we adopt or adapt, sometimes including video teaching.

There are two studies each year—winter/spring and fall and they typically last anywhere from 6–10 weeks. We accommodate schedules and offer a morning and evening session for each study. This pattern and pace is just right. I personally appreciate the spacing and time allotted as life is so busy and the commitment is not overwhelming as a participant or as a teacher. I am often surprised at how quickly the study passes which leaves me looking forward to the next one.

The studies follow a 3-part structure:

  • First, personal study during the week of the given text using a provided workbook.
  • Second, a small group discussion time led by a leader who facilitates the discussion.
  • Third, a large group teaching time.

The small group discussion is such a sweet and importnat time. There’s a reason why we come together to study, not only to be taught but to help one another grow in the Word. This time allows women to ask questions or share what God has revealed in his Word. The small group leaders are to be spiritually mature women within the membership of Heritage who are willing to be equipped to lead. The small group leaders are selected from women who are participants of the study and have a love for God’s Word. These leaders love our ladies and one another. They also invest thier time sacrificially, meeting each Sunday afternoon throughout the Bible study terms with the teachers to discuss the upcoming text and to pray for the ladies.

In addition to small group meetings, our weekly Bible study includes a large group time of formal instruction in the Word. This teaching is from a woman teacher within the membership of Heritage or through a video series. This time is for the purpose of expositing the text for further explanation and personal application. The women who teach must first attend a Simeon Trust Women’s Workshop or take the Simeon Trust online First Principles Class. These women share a desire to grow in their ability to teach the Word of God to help other women move toward Christlikeness.

Some churches have a running women’s Bible study without interruption. We have a few reasons for the pace and pattern of our study. One of those reasons, as you have indicated, is to see that leaders and material are adaquately prepared and supported. Tell us more about that. 

As far as the teaching, we are always making plans for future studies, even years in advance. We select content in advance and all of this is overseen by our elders. For example, our current study through the Psalms has been in preparation for the better part of the last year so that several of us can teach with confidence in the text and confidence as teachers.

One way we serve our women is by making sure that our teachers and small group leaders are encouraged and supported. One of my responsibilities is to shepherd what we call our teaching guild, a small group of ladies that meet to plan and encourage one another in their Word work.

In addition, small group leaders and teachers meet weekly on Sunday afternoons during the weeks when our Bible study meets. This Sunday discussion time helps in our understanding of the passage and to identify anything that has the potential to be confusing.

I have been greatly blessed by the humble hearts of the ladies who participate as small group leaders. We do not always lead perfectly, but there is a great desire to grow and improve as we lead these discussions and promote a response to God’s Word through prayer, repentance, obedience, and sharing. This weekly meeting also ensures that we know and care for one another as leaders, that none of us are without the support we need. I’m convinced that one reason our Bible study small group conversations are so healthy is because of this weekly Sunday afternoon meeting among our leaders.

What excites you most about this role?

I can’t pick one thing. How about two? I am excited to lead in a role like this in a church where our elders pray for, guide, and support our women. They do this for the whole church and they do this for our women through this ministry. In some churches, the women’s ministry can take on a life and a mind of its own. But that is not the case here. Throughout this process it was clear to me that our elders are thoughtfully tending to the flock and this part of the minsitry.

I am also overwhelmed by the gifting that God has provided our church in such godly women. We have so many women with a deep knowledge of God and his Word, the ability to teach other women, as well as the desire to excel in hospitality and encouragement. We don’t have some women who are passionate about relationships and others about the Bible. We have women with a variety of gifts coming together around the Word in order to disciple one another and serve their church.

I am humbled to be a part of this group of women and it is my desire to encourage those already refining these gifts and to see growth in those who never imagined God would give them to such things.

Thank you for loving our women and for ministering the Word, Sarah! One final question: how can we pray for you and our women?

Please pray that God would equip and strengthen me for this work and that I would honor and glorify him in all I do and say. Pray that the women of this body would desire to know God and his Word better and that we would grow in our love for him and for one another, in showing hospitality, and in bearing one another’s burdens in Christ’s name.

Pray for the women involved in leading. It is my prayer for God to grow our small group Bible study leaders in their ability and confidence to lead discussions around the Word. I want to see women of all generations and backgrounds ministering to one another in these ways and these women are stirring up their sisters with their example.

Also pray that the fruit of this ministry would extend into our families and beyond as we seek to share Christ with our friends and neighbors.

A New Pastoral Role and A Vision for Deep Discipleship and Pastor Training

A New Pastoral Role and A Vision for Deep Discipleship and Pastor Training

Discipleship is all the rage. Commercials, sports commentary, and social media feeds teach us the story of the world, what we should believe, and how we should live.

Sometimes I’ll hear this comment: with all of the indoctrination we and our children receive through the week, what can a one hour sermon do? I’ve thought that. Maybe you’ve said it yourself. Here’s some good news. First, that one hour sermon is more powerful than all of the rest of the hours in a week combined if the Spirit uses it. Second, that one hour informs how we go about all of the other hours in a week. But, third, it’s not the only hour in which Word ministry takes place among us.

This post is about that third point. Our elders have designed a new role for our pastoral staff team, “Director of Discipleship and Theological Development.” I want to tell you about that. But first, let’s talk about discipleship—deep discipleship—in the local church.

What Do We Mean by Deep Discipleship?

Given our many new challenges as disciples of Jesus, we may think that we need equally modern answers. What the church needs, however, are the same old things Jesus had in mind when he said, “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” (Matt. 28:19, 20). In slightly different terms: preaching for conversion, church membership, and ongoing discipleship.

What does this ongoing discipleship involve?

If we want to know what Jesus imagined for the church’s discipleship, we need only to look at how the Apostles went about obeying and stirring the church to obedience to Jesus’ command. Even better, we should listen to how the Apostles specifically instructed pastors to lead and order churches to that end. What did they emphasize? How did they instruct churches to go about this work?

Discipleship has as specific content:

  • Deep storytelling. “Great indeed,” Paul wrote to Timothy, a pastor in training, “is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1Tim. 3:16) This was a poem known and recited by the first Christians, perhaps even in church. It’s the story of Jesus, the central character in the story of the universe. It’s the true story of everything and it is the beginning and end of our story. Discipleship involves knowing the Scriptures. To know the Scriptures is to know this story.
  • Deep truth. The church is “the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1Tim. 3:15). The church is a people that confesses truth about Christ, that defends truth concerning Christ for her own sake and for the sake of her witness. “Now the Spirit expressly says,” Paul wrote, “that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared (1Tim. 4:1, 2). We are easily deceived. But we will not be deceived if we give ourselves to teaching and to confessing the “trustworthy word,” to “sound doctrine,” and to “sound words.” (Tit. 1:9; 2:1; 1Tim. 4:7).
  • Deep transformation. The story of Scripture and the truth of Christ are formative. “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and buttress of the truth” (1Tim. 3:14, 15). The truth of God is unmoving but that doesn’t mean we are. We are formed and moved and commissioned by this truth. We behave differently because we are different. We are the “pillar and buttress of truth” in this world, the way the world sees God and his salvation. Truth is for life, doctrine is for devotion, and the Word is for our worship and our witness.

This kind of deep discipleship has a specific context:

  • All of God’s people in all sorts of ways. Who is involved in this work of discipleship? Jesus’ great commission was for the whole church. Nevertheless, there are different roles for us to play. The Lord Jesus gave “shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Pastors and teachers devote themselves “to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1Tim. 4:13). This is the role of qualified men, leaders of God’s household as they are of thier own (1Tim. 3:1–7, 15). But that’s not where the Word ministry ends. Equiped by her pastors to stand up under doctrinal winds, members teach one another, “speaking the truth in love” until the body “builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:14–16). Sometimes that means encouraging and helping; at other times that means warning and correcting; at all times this means patience (1Thes. 5:14). Whatever the need of the moment, members pick up where the pastors leave off by pressing God’s truth into the details of their own lives: “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).
  • Every day and especially the Lord’s Day. When does this happen? Clearly, there’s formal teaching in the New Testament in settings where the church is gathered on the Lord’s Day. In Acts 20 we read an account of Paul teaching for so many hours that one man fell into a deep sleep and fell out a window and died. Paul resurrected him, thankfully. There is a need for gathering together and being taught, for the church needs teaching and there is much to teach (Acts 20:27). But all of this teaching gives way to informal and unplanned interactions in which we seek one another’s spiritual good: hospitality in our homes, conversations over coffee or in the hallway after church, one-to-one Bible studies, text threads between moms. All of this is Jesus’ plan for our growth as his disciples.

At Heritage we go about this with a church calendar that is meaningful (with plans that are purposeful, intergenerational, and thoughtfully placed and paced), minimal (so you have time to be good parents, neighbors, workers, and—importantly—good church members during the week), and with a view to multiplication (of disciples and leaders of every kind).

How does this look practically?

In the first place, it looks like a habit of gathering together on the The Lord’s Day for planned and purposeful interactions around the Word. We place the greatest emphasis on the Lord’s Day gathering where we give ourselves to the ordinary means of grace—reading, preaching, praying, and singing the Word to and with one another. We follow that gathering up with a variety of planned interactions in a variety of settings: meeting in one another’s homes twice a month, meeting once a month to pray for an hour, meeting every eight weeks in Family Meetings to partner in membership and mission. Informing and feeding all of this, we meet most Sundays for classes with planned breaks to teach and be taught the story of Scripture, the truth of Christ, and to consider how these form and transform our lives.

Second, it looks like spreading out to our various parts of the community for less-planned but no less purposeful interactions with the Word. For an encouraging shot in the arm mid-week, some of our men and women will gather for organized Bible studies for modest stretches at a time up at the church. But otherwise we’re on our own to minister one to another, to be present with our spouses and children, to be known and available in our neigborhoods, and to be faithful in our vocations. The days between Sundays are the days for our many custom-taiored expressions of love and good works. 

That’s discipleship at Heritage. Now, about that role. 

Framing Up a New Pastoral Role

Recently we sent out  dear brother and pastor with his family to preach in a lead preaching role in North Carolina. Abe Stratton has filled several pastoral roles on our team for some fourteen years, most recently in the role we called, Pastor for Member Growth.

We are entering the process of a search for a pastor for this role on our staff pastoral team. But this role will have both a different name and a slightly different focus. First, the name. We found over the years that the name for this role needed regular explanation. I would often say, “Abe oversees all of our adult discipleship ministries.” And that was fair. With fourteen years of relationship and leadership depth, Abe’s role involved oversight of the following: Membership, Shepherding Groups, Electives, Men’s and Women’s Ministry, Sunday Host Ministry, and Local Outreach. He stewarded all of this so very well.

Whenever we have a change on our staff team like this, our elders don’t necessarily look for a one-to-one replacement but consider how the development of our philosophy and the needs of the church might inform the shape of a slightly different role. What does our church need in this role?

In this case, our elders came to a few conclusions. First, one man should not oversee all of these areas. It made sense for Abe given his history and relationships, but even Abe would say he was spread too thin. Secondly, one man should not oversee both Shepherding Groups and Electives. The best man for either one of these is probably not the best man for both at the same time. Both because of the time investment they require, but also the skillsets. So, we decided that this new role would focus on deepening and developing our Elective class ministry both with the development of a scope and sequence for our church and the material for these classes. Importantly, we want him to be a developer of teachers and of others who would write classes. This is the kind of man who might flourish in academia but who desires to teach and equip teachers in the local church. This is a man that understands that the church’s everyday discipleship interactions feed on and flow from the quality of the church’s more prepared teaching. By investing up-stream in our Elective Classes we will nourish and support the whole of the body. 

Imagine in a few years that we might have three tracks of classes: Bible and theology, Church life, and the Christian life and mission. Imagine several levels within each track and teachers trained and scheduled as far as a year or two out for deeper planning and richer teaching. Imagine a Saturday lecture series on Christian ethics, marriage and parenting, or evangelism. Imagine an annual theology conference with guests to speak, friends of our church from around the country. We’re just imagining here. But this is what this role, focused on the church’s teaching and teachers, would devote himself to with creativity, energy, and depth. In the mix, he would be the pastoral point for oversight of our men’s and women’s ministries, each anchored with a Bible study ministry.

We do not believe he can or should devote himself to this vision while also overseeing our Shepherding Groups. Our Shepherding Group structure and leaders will need their own devoted pastoral oversight. For now, Jason Read will oversee that structure, a reasonable temporary assignment given our committed leaders and congregation. In fact, all of Abe’s former areas have either new permanent or temporary assignments (Pray for us!).

However, there is another assignment that we believe pairs well with this role.

Going Broader by Training Pastors

Our church’s mission is “to spread the unsearchable riches of Christ broader in the world and deeper in the church.” This spreading vision commits us to going and sending for the church among the nations, but not just among the nations.

For many years our church has raised up, developed, and sent out pastors and preachers. We’ve done this with full-time and part-time pastoral internships. Timothy Martin is right now our full-time pastoral resident. We gather aspiring preachers monthly in the Preaching Cohort to work on their preaching craft. We host an annual Greenville Preaching Workshop for preachers and aspiring preachers in our area.

Recently our elders agreed together around a more structured vision for training pastors, to bring more coherence and energy to these plans. Here are our goals in three levels:

  • to help aspiring pastors discern their fittedness for pastoring through part-time and full-time internships.
  • to develop those committed to pastoring through a full-time pastoral residency and multi-year pastoral assistants.
  • and to deploy these men by sending them out or in some cases hiring them for our own staff.

We’re still working out how all of this will work, but one encouragement is in order. Our elders’ focus on pastor training is not a labor that takes our attention away from you or our shared evangelistic mission. Rather, it multiplies both. For, these men would be meaningfully deployed for your encouragement and instruction, your friendship and partnership. Then, what a joy it is to send them out, as we did with Brad Baugham so many years ago, who preaches now at Emmanuel Bible Church, an outpost of gospel ministry born out of our church. Or consider that both Jason and I were Pastoral Assistants many years ago at other churches where our roles matured into staff pastor assignments, which in turn prepared us to serve you today. If other churches are incubating pastors that may serve us, then let’s incubate pastors that can serve other churches.

Let’s Pray and Plant, Water and Wait

That’s the vision for this role, a vision that flows from and to our calling as disciple-makers and disciplers. Now, lets pray for the Lord to bless these plans for deeper discipleship and a deeper church.

Let’s do so in the spirit of the Apostle Paul’s own Apastolic ministry: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1Cor. 3:6).

  • Pray for the Lord to send us a capable teacher and preacher.
  • Pray for the Lord to send us an equipper of teachers and preachers.
  • Pray for the Lord to send us a man who will love our church and the work we’re about.

To read more about this role, visit our Job Searches page for a role profile and a profile of our church. If you have someone in mind, you are welcome to point them to this page and to the application. You’ll notice that we call it a “director” role. We typically do that for all of our staff-pastor roles, with some exceptions. This role, though, is intended to mature into a staff elder/pastor role in due time. For that reason, we are looking for a man who not only has a skillset and strengths that fit the assignment, but who meets the biblical qualifications for elder.

A Call to Prayer During Ramadan

A Call to Prayer During Ramadan

Editorial Note: In this post, Pastor Jason Read equips us to pray in fervent and informed ways for our Muslim neighbors and for Muslims among the Riau Melayu during the month of Ramadan. The Riau Melayu are the strategic focus of our prayers and labor as a church for God’s name among the nations. In 2023, Ramadan takes place from Wednesday, March 22, through Friday, April 21.


According to Muslim tradition, in the year 610 Allah began a twenty-three year process of dictating the Quran to Muhammad. The essence of the story is that Muhammad, in his quest for knowledge of Allah, repeatedly visited a cave near the city of Mecca for times of solitude. During one of those visits, Allah sent an angel to begin the dictation. That first visit came in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan.

Within the revelations from Allah came the five core pillars, or principles, of Islam: Shahada (faith), Salah (prayer), Zakat (almsgiving), Sawm (fasting), and Hajj (pilgrimage). Each practice must be completed by all Muslims throughout their lifetime. During the month of Ramadan, in commemoration of the giving of the Quran, Muslims fast as a means of devotion to Allah and to gain self-control over their human desires.

Ramadan moves each year because the Islamic calendar is based on cycles of the moon, rather than movement of the sun. Beginning with the sighting of the new moon, Muslims will fast from food and drink, among other things, during the sunlight hours. The fast ends each evening with an iftar, the fast-breaking evening meal. This is generally a very social meal, with Muslims inviting one another into their homes for a communal meal. During the month, many people will attempt to read through the entire Quran. The goal of this piety and self-restraint is a greater consciousness of Allah (taqwa).

In adherence to Islam, the Riau Melayu, some two million people spread across thousands of islands, will likewise be fasting in hopes of gaining favor with Allah. In 2021, the members of Heritage committed together to focus our global missions efforts in the direction of the Riau Melayu. We’re praying that Riau Melayu Muslims would become Riau Melayu Christians. We’re praying that God would establish local churches with indigenous leaders, gathering those believers according to his Word for the sake of his glory.

Praying for Muslims During Ramadan

During the month of Ramadan, would you consider praying each day for the Riau Melayu or a Muslim you might know? As they focus their attention on obedience to Allah, let’s pray that the Word of God would increase, multiplying the number of disciples obedient to the true faith (Acts 6:7). Below are a few prompts to get you started.

  • Read Psalm 63. Pray that God would create in them a hunger and thirst to know the true God.
  • Read 2 Corinthians 5:21. Pray that God would reveal to them their sin and their need for the righteousness found in Christ alone.
  • Read Hebrews 1:1-4. Pray they would know the supremacy of Christ who is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.
  • Read 1 Peter 2:24. Pray they would soon know the truth, that Christ bore our sins in his body on the cross.
  • Read 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. Pray for our missionaries among the Riau Melayu. Ask God to give opportunities for conversations about God and the Bible.
  • Read Luke 24:27. Pray that Riau Melayu Muslims would read the Bible with our missionaries and discover the truth of Christ.
  • Read Acts 1:8. Pray that God would embolden us by the power of the Holy Spirit to share the good news of Jesus Christ with our Muslim friends.
  • Read Revelation 5:9-14. Praise God for the work he is doing to gather for himself worshippers too numerous to count from every tribe, language, people and nation.

Learning About Islam During Ramadan

Ramadan might also be a time during which you intentionally learn more about God’s global mission or the challenge of reaching Muslims with the gospel. Below are a few book ideas for reading during Ramadan.

Many of us have Muslim neighbors and co-workers right here in Greenville. The month of Ramadan presents an easy opportunity for you to ask them about their faith and practices. Ask what Ramadan means to them. Ask about family history or traditions. They might even invite you to join them for an iftar. Some of those conversations are great moments to ask, “May I share with you what I believe about Jesus?” Remember, you are an “ambassador for Christ” (2Cor. 5:20), so love your neighbor well by building a friendship and seeking opportunities to proclaim the hope of Christ.

Good News From a Good God

In Acts 4, the religious leaders were “greatly annoyed because [John and Peter] were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). It’s no small thing to be an ambassador for Christ. Rather than shrink back at the enormity of the task or the threat of persecution, John and Peter delighted in God’s promises and they prayed. Out of their prayers, the Spirit empowered them to “speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

Praying for Muslims to know Christ and seeking opportunities to speak truth may seem too large of a task for you. Perhaps you don’t know enough to make a winsome appeal. Perhaps you’re worried about having all the right answers. Like the Apostles, remember God’s promises and pray for boldness. There is good news from our good God for the humble ambassador. “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2Cor. 5:20). God is the one making the appeal. Christ is the one who redeems. The Spirit is the one who gives new life. The impossible burden of conversion does not rest upon your shoulders. Rather, God makes his appeal, through us, as we boldly pray and proclaim the hope of our Savior.

Why We Are Against Abortion

Why We Are Against Abortion

On Friday, June 24, at 10:10 AM the Supreme Court of the United States struck down Row vs. Wade, reversing the legalization of abortion on demand across the United States. The issue of abortion is now the legal responsibility of our state legislatures. If you were alive on September 11, 2001, you remember where you were when the planes struck the towers. That was a bad day. The striking down of Roe marks a good day and a one to remember.

While this topic has our attention, I want to spend that attention in a particular way. Others have done a good job celebrating this legal victory and I heartily concur. As one friend put it, this decision may not lead to an unmitigatedly good world, nevertheless the overturning of Roe vs. Wade is an unmitigatedly good decision and a reason to celebrate. Hats off to those who have labored in the trenches of counseling, picketing, campaigning, persuading, and praying for this day.

While I have your attention, though, I want to write something evergreen for our church that we need both now and down the road. I want to answer the question, “why are we against abortion?”

Isn’t that obvious for a church that confesses that all humans are made in God’s image? Yes. Still, I’m convinced that if we do not self-consciously rehearse the deepest reasons for our opposition to abortion, we will grow vulnerable to bad arguments, unimpassioned indifference, and even quieted embarrassment for our position. In fact, because of how pervasive worldly philosophies are, some of us may have already adopted these bad arguments. (1Tim. 6:20, Col. 2:8). Without working hard to think in clear ethical and strategic terms rooted in Scripture, we may even fall to “nuanced” false moral equivalencies between the legal protection of the unborn and affordable healthcare or criminal justice reform. There is a term coined to describe those with pro-life convictions who have grown weary of speaking and acting for the unborn: “fetus fatigue.”

One leg of the marathon is over with the reversal of Roe. Another leg begins with our work at the state level. Lest we get tired or buy the trope popular among some in the Christian leadership class that abolishing abortion is a pipe dream, let us answer the question “Why are we against abortion?”

There are at least four reasons.

First, abortion is the murder of a human being.

Abortion is a legally complicated topic. Yet abortion is frequently pitched as a morally complicated topic. What is the point of viability? What were the circumstances of the conception? It’s true that we care about all the people involved, including the mother and father. Two questions, however, make the ethics of abortion surprisingly simple.

The first question is this: when do human beings begin? The answer is straightforward from the Bible, and it is clear in nature. In Psalm 139, David reflected on God’s intimate knowledge of every part of his life, even his life in the womb. With David each of us can say, God “knit me together in my mother’s womb” (139:13). Biology teaches us that Homo sapiens begin at the meeting of egg and sperm with the creation of an entirely new organism, unique with its own DNA. Given a proper environment and time, that organism contains within itself all that is needed to direct its own growth from that moment until death. In other words, embryos are not a part of the woman’s body or a parasite. Rather, an embryo is a distinct human being. Standard biology textbooks agree. Many in the pro-choice community are happy to grant this view of human life, though we don’t hear that position much in popular media.

But if many in the pro-choice community are happy to grant the basic humanity of unborn life, then how can they also be for abortion?

For this reason, we need to answer a second question: what makes human beings special? We step on ants, and we eat cows. Why not human beings? One view says that human beings are valuable for the kind of thing we are as human beings. This is what Christians hold, and we believe it to be so because, as Genesis 1:27 reads, “God created man in his own image.” A two-year-old girl, a handicapped boy, and an accomplished violinist share the same humanity and, thus, the same human dignity.

To understand the alternative view, the acronym, “SLED,” comes in handy. This view holds that human beings are more or less valuable depending on their size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency. When an argument for abortion is made based on viability, the logic of dependence is at work. An argument for partial birth abortion assumes an argument from environment. Where the human being is determines whether the human being is worthy of life. Princeton Professor of Bioethics, Peter Singer, recognizes the superficial difference that environment makes and so he advocates for infanticide, the killing young children. Humans, in this view, are not valuable for the kind of thing they are but for the kind of human they are.

But not only is abortion the murder of an infinitely valuable human being, abortion is the violent murder of a defenseless human being. Differences in size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are reasons for a special measure of care.

We are against abortion because we are for human life, and especially human life in its most vulnerable stage.

Second, we fear God and praise his life-knitting glory revealed in the womb.

Listen to how David felt about the scope of God’s sovereignty over his life:

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
—Psalm 138:14-18

Meditation on God’s pervasive knowledge and care for us is a reason for wonder and praise. For that reason, it should be no surprise that our Bibles are filled with the violent death of children, for God’s enemy, the Devil. We can’t help but think of Pharaoh’s order for the Hebrew sons to be thrown into the Nile (Ex. 1:22). Yet, as the story goes, “the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them” (Ex. 1:17).

What happens in the womb of a woman is not really about what happens in the womb but in heaven. It’s about a woman and her baby and the life-knitting hand of God. When our hearts are in the right place, we revel at God’s masterpiece in humanity and revile the assault of abortion on his handiwork.

We are against abortion because we fear God, and we are for the display of his life-knitting glory.

Third, we believe in the societal good of male and female bodies, of marriage, of sex, and of children.

These things are good, they are good for society, and they are integral. They go together and they are designed to go in that order. That’s what we learn from the first two chapters of the Bible.

Here’s my favorite tweet after the fall of Roe: “Women will begin making pre-sex demands. Legally binding agreements with economic safeguards built in. Probably even expecting expensive jewelry and diamonds!”

Abortion has occupied an essential place in the moral matrix of American life for many years. Advocates for abortion speak about abortion as a “choice.” Human autonomy is one principle driving the ideology of abortion. Yet, an even stronger driver is equality. That is, the equality of the sexes. Bracketing for a moment the present confusion over what constitutes a woman, there are real life consequences to the biological fact that women have a uterus and men do not. When a man and a woman come together, a man impregnates, and a woman gets pregnant.

Abortion has been a way for men and women to engage in marital or extramarital sex without the natural consequence of bearing a human life. Abortion, with its denial of the goodness of the female body has been bad for all of us, but especially for women and children. Abortion has contributed to the pulling apart of children from sex, of sex from marriage, and of children from their parents.

We are against abortion because we are for the blessings that flow from the proper enjoyment of God’s good gifts.

Finally, we love our neighbors and long for sinners to come to repentance.

This reason is not peripheral.

Heaven will be populated with abortionists, with those who aborted their children, and every other kind of sinner who looked to Christ for forgiveness and for righteousness. But no one will be there who did not first see and confess the reality their sin and guilt before God. Feelings of guilt are good, a sign that our consciences are sensitive to eternity. Telling the truth about abortion is telling the truth about God and humanity and sin. Telling the truth about sin is one hard step on the way to the blessing of repentance and faith and eternal life.

We do not love our unbelieving neighbors by speaking only of sins most decent people are comfortable denouncing: lying, cheating, spousal abuse, and child trafficking, for example. Just read some of the stories of 26 women who committed abortions, published a few years back in New York Magazine. Some of these women have been hardened. Many of them are haunted. All of them, we know, need the grace of God—grace which is greater than all of our sin. Satan assaults the glory of God through abortion. He manipulates and uncritically affirms our felt needs and tortures those whom he has enslaved. Being honest about the evil of abortion is an important first step toward knowing the love of Christ for those who would commit an abortion.

Yes, speaking against abortion and acting on behalf of the unborn means that some—even many—harden in their opposition to our cause for the unborn, and even our Savior. But such is the case with any sin, no matter how gracious our presentation. Jesus’ own preaching blinded some while it gave sight to others. That’s how the Word works.

We are against abortion because we are for babies, we are for the glory of God, we are for the good of our neighbors, and we are for the salvation of sinners.

Keep up the good works

The expression, “Keep up the good work,” is a way of doing two things: celebrating good work and cheering on more of the same.

Brothers and sisters, good work. You have prayed. You have counseled in crisis pregnancy centers and campaigned for laws and leaders that advanced this cause. You have read and studied and taught one another about life. You have promoted marriage. You have adopted children. You have persuaded mothers to keep their children with tenderness, truth, and practical help. You have done the good work of caring for the vulnerable, just as Christians have always done. You have advocated for life in many ways over many years. In all of this, you have walked in the good works prepared beforehand by our Father.

Good work. Praise the Lord! Keep it up.

How Does The Gospel Shape Our Gathering?, Part 3: Our Design Workflow

How Does The Gospel Shape Our Gathering?, Part 3: Our Design Workflow

This is the third in a three-part series, How Does The Gospel Shape Our Gathering? Read, “Part 1: A Theological Framework,” and, “Part 2: Our Liturgical Form.”


We’ve moved in this series from the fixed and permanent things to the more flexible things. Every church should sing and preach the Word. But churches can go about that differently. I’ve known of churches where the congregation requests songs on the spot. That’s not what we do but that’s one way to do it. In this post I’ll outline how we design our worship services. There are five sections of material here working chronologically as they typically happen. But these aspects of service design often blend in together. We have a formula to help us work well together, but don’t mean to be formulaic.

Focusing the Service

The most consequential and non-negotiable part of our service is the preached Word. Preaching is the main way Christ by his Spirit saves and sustains the church. Preaching defines the gospel and, therefore, the church. For these reasons, preaching is the structural climax and thematic center for our service. Everything else leads to and flows from this.

Keying off the preached Word, each Sunday gathering has two themes: a theme of revelation and a theme of response. The first theme focuses our attention on a facet of God’s glory and grace. The second theme focuses our response in a way appropriate to what God has revealed.

Here are some questions we ask to bring focus to a service:

  • Is there a doctrinal theme in this week’s text, last week’s text, or in the series that would be especially useful for this Sunday’s gathering, keeping the overall diet in mind?
  • Is there a natural biblical response offered in the book or preaching text that we can draw from for this service?
  • How do these themes of revelation and response relate to the thematic emphasis of the sermon? (reinforcement, complement, contrast, etc.)

Gathering the Texts

Several tools help us gather our songs and readings. The first is a song catalogue, curated with about 160 songs that we sing as a church. These are songs whose texts are, in our judgment, especially good and whose tunes are especially singable. They are also songs that we can lead musically with excellence while still stretching us. We have songs that help us learn and sing just about every truth we believe. We have songs written for calling us into God’s praise, for leading us in confession, and for praying for the Word. We tag each song in the catalog to help us find the best songs for each Sunday. The second tool we use is a liturgy notebook filled with Scriptures and readings. Some of these are home cooked but many are curated from various other resources.

In gathering our material, we want to avoid two ditches. We want to avoid the ditch of incoherence, where there is no thematic relationship between the songs. On the other hand, it’s our approach to avoid a service that is too matchy-matchy. Someone should not end the service and think, “wow, we just sang a bunch of songs about how Christ is a ‘rock.'” Rather, as a result of the cumulative effect of the design, we want to say together, “wow, Jesus Christ is our rock!”

Here are some questions we ask ourselves once our themes are chosen:

  • What songs, readings, or prayers immediately come to mind? How might these serve the following elements?: call, praise, confession, assurance, illumination, and response. With more research, what other songs, readings, or prayers might serve these elements?
  • Is there an opportunity this week to use a song that we haven’t sung in over six months? Is this a good week to introduce a new song we have waiting for the right Sunday to introduce? Are there any newer songs we should repeat? Any regulars we should avoid repeating?
  • What additional themes have emerged so far in this preaching series—and especially last week—that we can at least subtly echo in this service?

Organizing the Material

There are three basic patterns we can follow in designing a service. First, the historic gospel pattern in which we move from a call/praise > confession > assurance > a prayer/song of illumination > preaching > response/ordinances > benediction. We may put a profession of faith in there, but that’s the general flow. This is our most typical pattern and these elements will emerge in the other approaches as well, but for some elements less prominently. Second, there’s the gospel narrative pattern, where we move through an event in Scripture, whether it be the Bible’s whole story from creation > fall > redemption > new creation, or an event like the Exodus. The third approach is the gospel passage pattern. This is where we take a passage of Scripture—a Psalm or a paragraph in a letter, for example—and we work through that passage in the course of the service.

Here are a few questions we ask in this phase:

  • What pattern of service design seems best suited to the theme and texts we’ve gathered?
  • How can we bring a sense of proportion to this week’s service with songs old and new, songs to God and to one another about God, traditional and modern musical settings?
  • How do each of these songs/readings/prayers uniquely relate to the service theme and how should they be ordered?

Ironing Out the Details

This step involves writing out the Call to Worship, modifying any readings to better advance our themes, and crafting song transitions. To return to our metaphor of a building, transitional comments are like signs that move through the gathering. They aren’t destinations but directions to help us get where we’re going. These are typically short—one or two sentences—just like signs should be. They should be meaningful, minimal, and memorable so that they can be delivered comfortably and with connection.

To write these, we identify where we are in the service and then meditate on the beginnings and end of songs to form a simple verbal conceptual link between them. These brief comments do more than explain, moving us from one element to another. They invite and exhort us, moving our spirits and moving us toward one another and to the Lord.

Here are some questions we ask in this phase:

  • Where is the movement plain enough between elements that we can forego a transition at least once or twice during this service? Where is the movement between elements unclear enough such that a transition of some kind is needed?
  • Where needed, how can we craft one or a few lines to help us move simply, briefly, poetically, and (for the leader’s sake) memorably from one element to another?
  • How can we adapt the readings to more carefully unify the service and advance its themes?

Preparing the People

We want our gatherings to adorn the Word of God with undistracting excellence. We want to raise our affections with the Word. We want to involve the whole congregation without smothering their voice with our artistry. All of this involves a certain combination of musical and technical skill, spiritual maturity, nurtured relationships, and things like emails, software, and rehearsals. What does this mean for us week-to-week? It means involving the right people in the right ways and with the right preparation.

At Heritage, we are blessed immensely with skilled musicians who love our Lord and love his church. We have people skilled at playing instruments, arranging songs, leading rehearsals, mixing sound for the room, and organizing these parts to put our attention where it belongs. We have godly elders and deacons who prepare and lead us in prayers that are scriptural, understandable, and sincere. Deanna Moore skillfully prepares our music and our musicians. From the back of the room, Brian Burch leads our tech and mixing teams, so you don’t even notice them. A post could easily be devoted to the work involved in the teams they lead. Lisa Hansen supports us all with with heart and administrative skill. Abe Stratton leads us pastorally and vocally most Sundays without missing a note. There are countless others.

Focusing now just on music and musicians, here are some questions we ask:

  • What kind of ensemble and instruments are best suited for this week’s songs? Is there a song we’re singing that requires a special musical touch by a particular musician? Importantly, who is available?
  • What musical settings and transitions will best serve this week’s service themes and design? What can we do musically with undistracting excellence? How might we hold out the truth of a song with our artistry?
  • Are there any opportunities this week for us to grow musically and technically? Are there any singing difficulties with one of these songs that requires special attention?

As you see and know those who lead us in more and less public ways on Sunday, give thanks to God for them, and then give praise to God with them. That’s why they’re there.

In addition to preparing those who will lead us on Sundays we also prepare you. We prepare you with details about the sermon text and theme, with playlists of songs we plan to sing, and with prayer before the service taking place in a number of venues. Watch Friday’s email, The Weekly, for those sermon and song details.

What Makes for Acceptable Worship?

Acceptable to whom? This is a good place to end this series of posts. Our concern in gathered worship is how we may offer worship acceptable to God. Our forms and expressions should be sensible for us as a unique local church. But our first interest is in worship that pleases the Lord.

What makes for acceptable worship to the Lord? Simply this: the blood and righteousness of Christ. There are many matters of prudence when it comes to the songs we sing and how to order our gathering. We should come on the Lord’s Day with hearts devoted to him, no matter what happened that week or what we did the day before. But none of these things earns us a standing with God. None of these things makes us acceptable to God. That’s because none of these things can make a worshiper of God. Christ and Christ alone makes us acceptable to God and Christ alone makes sinners into worshipers.

Before we come together we must come to him. And having come together, we come through him! Loved ones, remember, “as you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1Pe. 2:9, 10).