Posted by: stpowen | February 17, 2013

Book Review: ‘Do We have a Policy?’ by Peter Masters.

I have been reading for a second time, ‘Do We have a Policy?’ by Peter Masters (Wakeman Books. ISBN 1-870855-30-2). The book is subtitled ‘Paul’s Ten Point Policy for Church Health and Growth.’ In the light of the plethora of books published in recent times on the subject of ‘Church Growth’ I believe that to read this book would be salutary for church leaders.

The word ‘Policy’ is Dr. Masters’ translation of the Greek word, prosthesis, translated ‘purpose’ in 2 Timothy 3:10, NKJV. ‘But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering….etc.’ He suggests that the word portrays Paul’s plan and strategy for the conduct of his life and ministry, which must have been fully known to Timothy because he had ‘carefully followed’ it. He writes, ‘Timothy was put in possession of a ready-made, prescribed policy. He was not given scope to be creative, ingenious or individualistic in this matter and neither are we.’ Paul’s ‘policy’ is therefore the blueprint for the ministry of every church leader.

Paul’s ten-point policy for all churches is as follows. Every church should be….

1. A Worshipping Church. Masters high-lights six ‘perversions’ of true worship found in churches today: Pleasurable worship, which puts the believer’s enjoyment before God’s pleasure; worldly-idiom worship, which adopts the musical tastes of the world; informal worship; aesthetic worship, which supposes that God can be worshipped by music, dance or drama; ecstatic worship, and shallow worship. True worship, says Masters, is words, whether said, sung or thought, and we must worship God in spirit and in truth and pray and sing with understanding (1 Cor. 14).

2. A Praying Church. Distinctive prayer meetings without preaching are found in Acts 1, 4 and 12. Paul prayed ‘without ceasing’ for the churches in Ephesus, Philippi and Colosse. Spurgeon described the Prayer Meeting as ‘the engine-room of the church’- that which drives the work forward. It is deplorable that so many mid-week prayer meetings are so poorly attended. It is no use then wondering why the work is not being blessed. Masters gives a variety of suggestions as to how the meetings should be conducted, but the first priority must surely be to get our people along to them.

3. A Sanctified Church. Masters quotes Col. 1:28. Along with the Gospel, practical holiness must be promoted from the pulpit. We must be different from the world in our manners, our speech and our habits. Masters also mentions dress, and I agree with him, in part at least. We should no longer be demanding that our people turn up in their ‘Sunday Best’ (James 2:1-4), but is it really suitable for young women to come to church week after week wearing skirts that scarcely cover their bottoms (1 Tim 2:9)? Or men with shirts open to the waist? This is not at all to say that we should be banning people coming to the church for the first time on grounds of dress. God forbid! But when young people have professed faith in Christ, it is time to have a quiet word with them about wordliness; for worldliness in dress is surely a symptom of worldliness in heart.

4. A Working Church. The key text is 1 Cor. 15:58. If we follow the teaching of 1 Cor. 12:7, that every Christian is given a spiritual gift for the good of the church, then obviously everyone should be encouraged to use it. I have addressed the question of ‘tongues’-speaking and prophecy elsewhere {1}, and I think my views would coincide with those of Dr. Masters, but there are gifts of ‘helps’ and ‘administrations’ and so often simple but time-consuming tasks fall upon the Pastor and his wife because no one else will do them.

5. A Learning Church. Paul speaks of Christ sending teaching gifts to the churches, ‘For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, ‘til we all come to the unity of the faith and to the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect [or ‘mature’] man…..that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men’ (Eph 4:12-14). The scriptural and doctrinal knowledge of many evangelical churches is deplorable. So many church splits occur because people do not know their Bibles and are deceived by some specious teaching that they have heard from a friend, on ‘God TV’ or on the internet. A Pastor must be ‘apt to teach’ (1 Tim. 3:2, A.V.) and should provide steady expository ministry, both on the Lord’s Day and at the mid-week meeting.

6. An Evangelistic Church. ‘….For necessity is laid on me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel’ (1 Cor 9:16). Masters rightly places this section after the previous two. The congregation must be taught before they are sent out to evangelize, but outreach is part of the work of every church. Every Christian should be able to ‘Give a reason for the hope that is in [him]’ (1 Peter 3:15). To suppose otherwise is a rather basic form of Hypercalvinism.

7. A Separated Church. 2 Cor. 6:14-18 is the text here. While I cannot go along with the ‘Two-stage’ separation that Dr. Masters supports elsewhere, there is little in this book with to which I can take exception. Gospel churches should not be having fellowship and holding joint meetings with churches that do not preach the Gospel. ‘Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this the wrath of the LORD is upon you’ (2 Chron. 19:2).

It would be helpful if Dr. Masters was a little clearer on what he means by ‘New Evangelicalism,’ which he mentions and condemns several times. I take it to mean those churches that do not mention sin and repentance, do not preach Substitutionary Atonement and which have an irreverent attitude toward God. Dr. Masters may well mean a great deal more than that. I rather suspects that he includes every church that ever sings modern hymns. I hope to write on this subject in more depth in the future (DV), so I will only observe that I disagree with Masters in his attitude to Anglican churches. In among the many Anglo-catholic, liberal and broad churches within Anglicanism there are several churches which preach the true Gospel , and I believe we should support these along with their ministers. In doing this, I do not see that we are supporting the Bishops or the other churches; we treat each church and each minister on their merits.

I believe that the situation within the denominations is more hopeful than it has been for many years. Several former Methodist churches have become independent in recent years, some of them joining the FIEC. I have also heard of a United Reformed Church that has dismissed its minister recently for failing to preach the Gospel. I believe with all my heart that we should be encouraging such churches and offering them all the help we can to avoid the snare of New Evangelicalism and to espouse a robust Biblical Christianity.

8. A Sacrificial Church. The text here is Romans 12:1. In the past 20 or 30 years, most people have become more affluent and creature comforts that were scarcely dreamed of by our parents are now available to most of us. Unfortunately, the appetite grows with the eating, and one foreign holiday a year soon becomes two or three, and Ipads and other electronic gadgets have become necessities rather than luxuries. There is nothing wrong with this in itself; God has given us all things richly to enjoy. But the Christian’s first obligation is to the Lord’s work, and acquisitiveness and the seeking of leisure means that many Christians are failing to support their churches with either their money or their time. Masters rightly calls for a sacrificial spirit among Christians and rightly asserts that it is the duty of ministers to uphold this both by word and by example.

9. A Loving Church. It should really be unnecessary to speak of this. John 15:12 should be quite sufficient for us, but in so many churches there are factionalism, backbiting and petty disputes. Christians come in all shapes and sizes: rich and poor; intellectual and practical; confident and nervous, all sorts of people are gathered together in a church and it is their calling and their duty before the Lord to love one another. Masters points out that a busy, serving church will be more likely to be also a loving church because its members are working together for a common goal. Philadelphia, brotherly love (Rom. 12:10; 1 Thes. 4:9 etc.) must be our aim. ‘Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour and evil-speaking be put away from you, and all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you’ (Eph. 4:31-32).

10. A Believing Church. 2 Thes. 1:3-4 is a good text for this. Masters is speaking here of corporate faith. What is it that brings Christians to the church Prayer Meeting? Surely it is the conviction that God, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, is still on the throne, and is steadily bringing all things to their consummation. If the Prayer Meeting is poorly attended (as so many are today) is it not because the congregation, as a body, lacks faith that God will answer its prayers? Pastors, says Masters, must encourage their congregations to place their trust in the Lord, in His commands and in His promises, and not in the latest gimmicks to come out of the Church Growth movement.

Despite one or two misgivings, I believe that this book is a faithful guide and can be a real encouragement to God’s people. I recommend it as an antidote to Purpose-driven Life or books of that genre and would encourage pastors to give to any of the flock who might have come under the influence of the Church Growth Movement.

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