A Green Olive Tree

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. (Psalm 52:8a)

Trees are wonderful things in God’s creation, which the Spirit often inspired the writers of Scripture to use as spiritual metaphors. Here is chosen an olive tree, a common and important tree in much of the Mediterranean. An olive tree is known for its shade, its beauty and of course the tasty and soothing oil produced from its olives. David wrote this Psalm when he had gone to the Tabernacle to visit Ahimilech (1 Sam 21). The Tabernacle represented God’s presence, sacrifice for sin and worship (Today believer’s enjoy the presence of God through His Holy Spirit and our sins have been atoned at the Cross; however, we still gather in worship at places like Chapels). He came here as he fled from Saul and here he also met Doeg, Saul’s chief herdsman, who eventually betrayed Ahimilech (he is what is meant by v. 7!). David loved the LORD and enjoyed being in His presence. He recognised when He was in the house of God, he was like a green olive tree.

Can we say we are like a green olive tree, or are we perhaps a half-dead olive tree, or maybe a dead one like Doeg? Whether we are or whether we are not actually hinges upon being in the house of God. Is the public worship of God our joy & a priority above all others? When we gather together each Lord’s Day (and at other times) we declare our trust in God alone (v. 8b), we praise and thank Him (v. 9a) and we seek His face together (v. 9b). Our spiritual health can be measured by faithful delight in attending worship.

This year as we focus on being rooted, may we root ourselves in the Lord, expressed in and aided by being in His house. Oh the blessings that will follow! Then we shall be like a green olive tree.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris


This past Lord’s Day we welcomed two new members into our Chapel family. We showed the following presentation to remind members about membership and to encourage and challenge those Christians who are not yet members to consider membership.

You may also be interested in these two videos:

Membership, Conflict and Discipline

This past Lord’s Day I preached on the body of Christ, what it means to join it and what its life ought to look like. Three related matters didn’t make the cut for inclusion into the sermon, so here they as tasters:

Church Membership

When we place our faith in Christ we are in Him, meaning we share in His benefits. At the moment of justification we are then adopted into His body, the Church. This is what is often referred to as the invisible or holy catholic (universal) Church. How is this tangibly manifested, through the visible local church. We see this throughout the NT, believers engaging in the life of local churches. In Acts 2:42 it even says they devoted themselves to the fellowship. Sadly, too few Christians in these post-modern anti-institution days think we are required to become members of a local Gospel church but Church Membershiphere at the Chapel we believe this is how we formally identify with the body of Christ and its mission. A great resource for the membership sceptic, enquirer or already member is Church Membership: How the world knows who belongs to Jesus by Jonathan Leeman. I have a copy and it is worth you getting your own. It is the only book in the 9 Marks series I have read but if the rest are as sound and as helpful as this one I heartily recommend them all. If you can’t pick up the book check out their blog. I am convinced of the necessity of the principle of local church membership. Don’t remain aloof with some abstract I’m a member of the invisible church only club idea—join a church!


No one likes dealing with conflict, which is why most people run from it. That, however, is not the wisdom we find in Scripture. That got David into big trouble when he failed to address Amnon’s sin (2 Sam 13). He went against this proverb from Ecclesiastes 8:11: Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. Whilst the conflicts we face may not be so severe, the consequences of not dealing with them will be just as painful. So, don’t let the sun go down on your anger (Eph 4:26). If you have an issue with someone in the body, deal with it. This is the process Jesus gave:

15 “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. 16 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. 17 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. (Matthew 18:15–17).

In other words try to solve the issue at the lowest common denominator. Don’t escalate it by taking it to the top right away (any good church leader should challenge you to first deal with the situation yourself [unless there is a safety issue]). Remember that one of the fruits of the Spirit is to be “open to reason” (James 3:17). Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ (Eph 5:21) and trust the Lord will be faithful to your attempt to bring peace to the body (Ro 12:18).

*If this involves an Elder, not because they are perfect but because Christ’s image is at stake, the Bible requires two or three witnesses for any such charge (1 Tim 5:19).


One of hardest things a local church will have to do is discipline one of its members. Just as the Lord disciplines us for our benefit so too the church is to discipline members as medicine for their souls (and the local body, purging it of “poison”). Yes this has been abused but double YES it is still biblical. The best example is from the Corinthian church. In 1 Cor 5:2 Paul demands a man be removed from the church for incest. This story happens to have a positive ending for in 2 Cor 2:5–11 it appears he repented and was restored. 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14–15 and also Titus 3:10—to reject a “divisive person”—are also passages to keep in mind on this subject.

Discipline lets the member know they have sinned or erred in doctrine and gives them the opportunity to repent and be welcomed back into fellowship (always the goal). To the watching world discipline says that we do not associate that kind of belief or behaviour with following Jesus and so long as they persist in it we do not recognize them as part of it.

Here again you may want to check out the 9 Marks series, Church Discipline: Medicine for the Body by Jonathan Leeman.

May a robust commitment to what the Scriptures teach on these matters for the body be used to build up healthy churches.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris


Culture meets the Church

We live in an interesting time culturally speaking. In fact there are elements of modern culture that are downright disconcerting. Consumerism, materialism, narcissism along with a whole host of other “isms” plague us. Today seems to be all about me, the ultimate sign of how far society has moved away from God (the first sin was pride, Gen 3:5, see also Ro 1:25). What is perhaps even more troubling is the way culture is leaking into the Church. Whilst we as the Church are not supposed to be conformed but be transformed (Ro 12:2) sadly in many areas believers allow culture to lead them rather than the Gospel of Truth. One area this has become apparent is in “church hopping,” switching churches frequently whenever they cease to meet your needs or try to hold you accountable. In speaking with our missionaries recently who serve in South Korea this is even a problem there! Instead of continuing on I thought it would be worth re-blogging a couple of different articles and a video by an American Christian comedian (the discerning Brit will be able to read between the lines):

What if the church doesn’t meet my needs?

7 bad reasons to leave a church (and while we’re on it, what might be 7 good Biblical reasons to leave a church?)

And finally, check our an comedic episode of “Church Hunters”:

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

From Baptism and Back Again

hobbitThere and back again is the subtitle to the children’s book The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937). It is the journey of a small hobbit named Biblo who travels from Hobbiton in the Shire to the Lonely Mountain on the other side of Middle Earth to help a host of dwarves recapture their treasure from a dragon.  I cannot tell you more than that in case you’ve never read it, but he makes it there and back again in the end.

There is another epic story that could bear a similar name, though we’d have to call it something like From Baptism and Back Again: A True Story of Biblical Baptism. It is a story of the loss and then the subsequent rediscovering of the practice Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19–20.

I am utterly convinced, as a man swayed by credible evidence, that what is often called believer’s baptism by immersion or credobaptism (clarifying the only proper subject, mode and imagery) is the only type of baptism and that all of the extra-Biblical evidence (first century history, early Jewish practices, the meaning of the word baptizo, biblical context and theology, archaeology, and early Christian history, liturgy and literature) is conclusive to this end.[1]

Allow me to recount how Christianity went away from true baptism and developed other human practices and traditions (wrongly called baptism) and then came back again through the rediscovery of credobaptism during the Reformation.

Essentially the story goes like this…

Early Christians (think Acts and beyond) clearly practiced credobaptism exclusively. However, as Christianity grew in numbers and acceptability (along with a growing fear for the souls of infants), many began to push to expand the envelop of who could be baptized. This process was accelerated with the legalisation of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire in c.312 AD and the beginning of Christendom (when Christianity became the official state religion in Europe). Hereafter these recent unbiblical developments increased at an unprecedented rate. Corresponding to the legalisation of Christianity came rampant nominalism (something those in this period of the Church lamented). If society had become Christian how could all be identified as such within society and find inclusion in it? The answer: baptize every individual, whether adult or child, believer or unbeliever. Baptism would be one’s passport in Christendom (btw- which is why groups like Anabaptists and Baptists were viewed with such suspicion by the state in the Reformation, they were rejecting their passports!). The origin of infant or paedo-baptism as a new phenomenon is well documented by Tertullian (150–225).[2] He provides the first literary evidence for the practice, not because he embraced it but because he opposed its introduction into the church and the rampant nominalism it helped to breed. Listen to what he said[3]:


Sadly, however, the tide of nominalism was against people like Tertullian until paedo-baptism became embraced by the Church almost universally. Though Biblical baptism was still practiced at various points, unbiblical forms of baptism remained the norm until the Reformation began in the 1500s and groups like the Anabaptists and Baptists began to reject all other forms of baptism but the historic and Biblical form as unscriptural, nominal and “popish.”

One of the earliest Baptist confessions of faith, the First London Baptist Confession of 1644, states:

No. 39

That Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, given by Christ, to be dispensed only upon persons professing faith, or that are Disciples, or taught, who upon a profession of faith, ought to be baptized. (Acts 2:37, 38; 8:36-38; 18:8).

No. 40

The way and manner of the(1) dispensing of this ordinance the Scripture holds out to be dipping or plunging the whole body under water: it being a sign, must answer the thing signified, which are these: first, the(2) washing the whole soul in the blood of Christ; secondly, that interest the saints have in(3) death, burial, and resurrection (of Christ) ; thirdly, together with a(4) confirmation of out faith, that as certainly as the body is buried under water, and rises again, so certainly shall the bodies of the saints by raised by the power of Christ, in the day of the resurrection, to reign with Christ.

1) Mat. 3:16; John 3:23; Acts 8:38 2) Rev. 1:5; 7:14; Heb. 10:22 3) Rom. 6:3-5 4) 1 Cor. 15:28, 29

These believers were violently persecuted at first by other nominal and authentic Christians alike. Since the Reformation credobaptists have come to represent the largest bodies of Protestants in the world: Baptists, Pentecostals, Community Churches, Free Evangelicals, etc. Ironically, many anti-credobaptists still will practice credobaptism with adult converts (my local Anglican church once asked to use our space at the Baptist church for this very purpose).

Thus, though baptism has endured great trials, it has journeyed away from its Biblical origin and then back again so that—thankfully—credobaptism stands once more as a beautiful sign of the Gospel.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris


[1] While convinced, I count other brothers and sisters in Christ who differ on this important secondary point (so long as they do not believe baptism has any saving value) as full heirs in the Gospel, however, as disobedient to Jesus’ command in this regard. While not primary this important secondary matter has many consequences when overlooked or neglected.

[2] Tertullian was an elder in the church in Carthage (North Africa). He was a prolific writer in early Christianity and an apologist for the faith.

[3] The quote is taken from Everett Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries. (Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2009), 364.

The Done’s

I recently met a “done.” It was actually a great initial opportunity to chat with and pray for someone. The “done’s” refer to those who are done with church but who still consider themselves spiritual, if not Christian. This post is dedicated to the “done’s”; to encourage, challenge and equip both you and those of us who are the “not-done’s.” While not exhaustive I hope it gets us all thinking in a [correct] Biblical direction.

Often when you speak with a done they have a variety of reasons for not going to church and generally positively affirm: their belief in God or the divine, angels, prayer, the support they feel they receive from their faith, being spiritual vs. being church (or Christian), etc, etc.

Why did these people become “done”? The reasons vary as to the individual stories but a number of general observations could be noted: 1) they had a bad experience with “church,” 2) the hypocrisy in the church, 3) they were hurt or felt they were not supported in some way, 4) post-modernism- the rejection of institutions, 5) individualism- I can be “spiritual” by myself with no need of public worship or corporate Christianity, 6) acedia (that is spiritual laziness)- I don’t feel like going (or I have other things I could be doing), and that leads to 7) priorities. We could probably think of some others. Many of these are real reasons for being disgruntled with church. Many, even the more valid ones, also find their legitimacy in faulty thinking (which I hope to kindly and rationally challenge).

Let’s address some of these.

What type of church were you done with? Was it a healthy Bible believing, Gospel centred, Holy Spirit led, love and truth filled type of church? Were the ways of the world or the Kingdom most evident? If it was the former than you were actually not reacting against church at all, but a lesser replica. Often people say “I don’t believe in God.” I reply, “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in, I probably don’t believe in Him either.” The same applies to church. Are you reacting against a true picture of the church? If not, ask for the Lord’s help to get back up again and find a church like the one above.

But, even in the best case scenario where the church was all those things albeit imperfectly, we need to remember that the Bible teaches us we are broken. The Church represents the redeemed people of God whom He is perfecting for His glory. If I found The Perfect Church, I wouldn’t join it, because then it would no longer be perfect. The Church is made up of redeemed broken people who continue to be transformed into who they have been called to be by the grace of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. While the true Church, in ever growing degrees, should be more like Christ, we are not like Him yet. Therefore sin and hurt will still happen in the life of the church, however, in a healthy church it will be repented of and forgiveness and restoration sought. Do you have a naive view of human nature that might need altering so you are not disenchanted?

Lastly, are those reasons that are not necessarily someone else’s fault. Sometimes people are “done” because it is convenient, because of the lazy pride of our society. Sometimes being a done is because you are done with God, but still want to feel good as “spiritual,” but really your priorities are somewhere else. Really God is not number one, otherwise many things, including church going, would be different in your life. Is the priority of your life truly God?

Clearly, and I could go on, the topic is much deeper than meets the eye. Likewise to respond to it Biblically would require bringing in multitudes of passages, principles, etc. Let us look simply at one verse that cuts to the chase. Hebrews 10:25 says:

Let us not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another, all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The apostle John would have wholeheartedly agreed! In His old age, when he had a plausible excuse for not attending public worship, he did the opposite. Church tradition tells us that when he was around 90 years old and could not physically carry himself to worship he would have others carry him. John loved worshipping the Lord, His Lord, with His brothers and sisters in Christ. He loved Jesus, he loved to worship and he loved the Church. He knew it was his duty to worship and engage, but more than that it was his joy. What are you neglecting that is causing you to retreat from the life in the Church you should be living?

You can go to church your whole life and not be a Christian. Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than going to the Mall makes you a commercial product, or sitting in a garage makes you a car. But if you truly have become a Christian through faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, you should want to engage in the life of the local church (and that means going too). As a beekeeper I always say, “you cannot have the bee without the hive.”

What does going to/ participating in the life of the local church accomplish?

  1. It indicates your highest allegiance and life priority,
  2. Our lives are recalibrated towards God,
  3. We receive spiritual teaching and food, encouragement, prayer and fellowship,
  4. We grow in Christ
  5. We are prepared for good works of mission and service in the world
  6. The list of blessings could truly go on…

At the end of the day though, more important than fooling ourselves by either believing we are okay outside or inside the visible church, is whether we are truly a part of the Church (the invisible or universal Church of Christ made up of all true Christians). Do you know and follow Jesus? The answer to that question will determine everything else. When we know and seek Him everything else that should be in place begins to fall into place, as we become undone.

*For more on the gathered and scattered church see a coming BLOG post.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris