Pastor Michael Introduces Sermon Series: Broken Body

Michael WilburnChurch Blog

God will use His Word to minister to us. As we are faithful to this Book, it will give us humility in ourselves and our abilities, give us great confidence in God’s work in the church, and it will bring us to the point that we will boast in no one else but the Lord Jesus Christ.

Watch as Pastor Michael shares from 1 Corinthians as an introduction to his sermon series, Broken Body.

»Click to catch up on church news.

Jim Bennett: A Timeline of 50 Years

Jim BennettChurch Blog

Jim Bennett
View as PDF



Date Event Description
May 15, 1965 Jim’s salvation A New beginning
September 1965-69 Washington Bible College B.A. in Biblical Education
August 15, 1969 Marriage to Ann Elizabeth Inman Second most important life decision
September 1969-74 Capital Bible Seminary Master of Divinity; Master of Theology
June 1968-74 Hagerstown Bible Church Youth Pastor
July 1974–91 Immanuel Baptist Church Youth Pastor
July 1991–2017 Immanuel Baptist Church Pastor of Family Ministries
January-December 2018 Immanuel Baptist Church Pastor at Large


Date Event
1974–1992 IBC Youth Pastor


Edification: Trained Gospel Teen Teams:
Junior High Word of Life Club Bon Air Home for Girls
Senior High Action Groups Beaumont Home for Boys
College Bible Studies Miller School
Challenging Retreats Patrick Henry Boys/Girls Home
Conferences/Seminars Oregon Hills Open Air Meetings
Youth Staff led Small Groups Evangelistic Cookouts
State Fair of VA Evangelistic Tent
(Moody Science Films)
Missionary Journey to Martinique
CEF & Summer Short Term Missions
Evangelism/Ministry: Exciting Activities:
Baptist-Bask-A-Thon Yearly Retreats
Oregon Hill Open Air Meetings Creative Activities
Mark Baker Youth Rally Walk of Fear & Faith
Evangelistic Cookouts Country Western Cookout
Wandering Wheels Mobile Bus Trips

1981     Graduated from Summer Institute of Pastoral Studies – Dr. Jay Adams 

1984     Dan and June Feiler take the leadership – Junior High
               35 years of outstanding service and still “ticking!” 

1987-1989     Jim assumes interim Pastoral responsibilities 

1991     Jim assumes new role as Pastor of Family Ministries (Admin Assistants: Wendy Bowles; Betsy Bennett)
              Matt and Ruthie Fletcher become Associate Pastor of Youth 

1991-2017     Twenty Six years as Pastor of Family Ministries 

MINISTRY PHILOSOPHY: To edify (build up, strengthen), equip and energize families inside and outside of Immanuel. 

Ministries to Aid in the Process of fulfilling our Philosophy: 


Growing Families International (A biblical, balanced comprehensive curriculum to strengthen the husband/wife relationship and train parents at every stage of their parenting career.) (1991-2018)

1992-2018    GKGW IBC Pilot Leaders Group Trained
4 GKGW Classes increases to 200 classes all over Richmond (50 churches)
(316 Parenting Classes at IBC 4546 parents trained)

1992-2014     MCI-8, MCI-9 Bus Ministry (129,490 miles, 260 trips: 15 NYC Tours, 5 Florida, 4 New England, 3 Katrina Relief Ministry Trips, 6 California , 3 Buffalo/Niagara Falls, etc.) (Bus Maintenance: Ken & Joann Seal, Harold Lunde, Stuart and Jeannette Bradshaw – Great Work Folks!) (Drivers: Ken & Joann Seal, John Luck, Jim Bennett, Barry Gilman, Harold Lunde, RK Elswick, Christian MacIntosh, George Souleret, Bill Jeffries)

1994-2015     Eastern Regional Administrator for GFI (Maine-Florida)
(41 GFI Leadership Training Workshop & Conferences. 6219 leaders trained.)
Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts Seminars (Basic/Advanced) (14 seminars)
Walk Thru the Bible (Old and New Testament) Conferences (2 conferences)
Family Forums (Dr. William Bosher, Kay Coles James, etc.) (5 forums)
Evan Tell Seminar (Cam Abell) (2 seminars)
Back to Genesis and Answers in Genesis Seminars (Ken Ham) (3 seminars)
Bible Conferences with Special Speakers (Dr. Kent Hughes, Ken Ham, Dr. Stan Toussaint, Dr. Jim Berg, Dr. Jimmy DeYoung, Dr. Jim Schuppe, Dr. Bill Brown, Dr. Daniel Davey, etc.)
Men’s/Couples Retreats (Dr. & Mrs. Kent Hughes, Jerry Bridges, Dr. Stan Toussaint, Bob Vernon, Dr. Don & Caffy Whitney, Matt and Lauren Chandler (14 retreats)
Shepherds Conferences (1995, 1997 with Dr. John MacArthur) (2 conferences) 

1995-1998      Elder Training Seminars (4 seminars) 

1999       Joint Heirs Class begins to reach/teach/retain young couples. 

2008      Soma Life Groups Begin (Small group ministry meeting in homes: 4-12) 

2011      Young Adults Class Begins (Spin off of Joint Heirs to reach/teach/retain young couples and singles.)
Biblical Counseling (7880+ sessions)
Sunday School messages (1500+)
Sermons (100’s) 

2013     Jim assumes interim Pastoral responsibilities 

2014     Samaritan Outreach Ministry begins 


2001-2018     Church Wide Activities:
Church Picnics
Family Skate Nights, Labor of Love
Old Fashioned Family Fun Nights
Special Musical Events (Steve Green, Fernando Ortega, Keith & Kristin Getty, Kings Brass, The Brethren, The Promise Land Quartet, Korean Children’s Choir, etc.)
Pastors Open House (Flock visit homes of all Pastors)
Meet me at the Summit (Prayer for World Missions)
Church Wide and Elder Fellowships (John Luck and Jim Bennett collaborate to provide 91 unique, memorable events – Thrill of The Grill, Brazilian Churrascaria, Dollar Dog 50’s Style, Reunion at the Capitol Deli, Meet Me at the Summit, etc.) 

2018     Jim becomes Pastor at Large (Transition to retirement) 

Studying God’s Word: Applying What the Text Means

Mike Srisam-angChurch Blog

Studying the Bible by Mike Srisam-ang
Studying God’s word requires proper heart preparation, careful observation of what the text says, rightly interpreting the author’s intended meaning of what the text says (please refer to the previous posts), and lastly it involves applying what the text means.

Once we have examined the text and have come to a conclusion about what the biblical text means according to the intention of the author, we must relate that meaning of the text to the circumstances of our life and the lives of others. In other words, application is the living out of the facts. It is submitting your life without reservation to the authority of the text. Text-driven application seeks to answer the question, “now what?”

Observation asks, “what does the text say?” Interpretation asks, “what does the text mean by what it says?” Application asks, “what does the meaning of the text require from me?” It is important to understand that there is only one meaning to a text of Scripture, though many applications can be made from that meaning to everyday life.

The interpreter’s personal needs, concerns, and desires must not be allowed to influence his or her understanding of the author’s intent. Only once that intent has been determined can these needs, concerns, and desires be addressed appropriately in light of the objective meaning of the text.

You cannot apply a text if you do not know the meaning of the text. Interpretation controls application. In other words, the applications made from a passage must be consistent with and firmly connected to the meaning of the text. True application is the relationship between the intended meaning of the text and another person or audience. Since application is ultimately dependent upon the results of interpretation, it is clear that if faulty principles are used during the interpretive process, the application of the results of such interpretation will also be misguided.

Wrongly applying what the text means can result in a form of legalism – when interpreters claim the authority of a biblical passage to prescribe a certain application that in reality was never intended by the biblical writers. That is why it is necessary to determine what is directly applicable and what is indirectly applicable. In other words, there is a distinction between descriptive texts and prescriptive texts.

Descriptive texts contain teachings, commands, or directions which are limited in their direct application to a particular person or people. Prescriptive texts contain teachings, commands, and directions which are extended in their direct application to all people and places universally. So how do you distinguish between the two? A helpful rule is that every teaching of Scripture is to be received universally, unless the Bible itself limits the audience, either in the context of the passage itself or in other biblical teaching. When the context limits the recipient of a particular teaching, limits the extent of the application of that teaching, or limits application through progressive revelation, it is a violation of the authority of Scripture to make it universal. The application of a text should not go beyond what the text says. In other words, if a passage comments on an issue only to a point, do not press the application of that passage beyond that degree.

Once you have distinguished between the descriptive and the prescriptive, you are then ready to put into practice that which is taught by the author. Application is the process where truth is made relevant to life situations and so we should ask: How does the writer of the text intend for his readers to respond to the truth being heard? Is there a truth to believe about God? Is there a truth to believe about some other doctrine? Is there a command to obey? Is there a promise to trust? Is there an example to follow? Is there an error in behavior to avoid? Is there an error in thinking to avoid? Is there a principle to follow for personal guidance? Is there wisdom to shape my thinking? Is there a prayer to pattern?

As you study God’s word take time to think about what was learned and what changes should be made. True application comes only when you rely upon the guidance and illumination of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:14; Rom 8:14; Gal 5:18). Therefore, prayerfully ask God to reveal what changes should be made and obediently practice the truth. Biblical truth is not applied until it is believed and lived out. Write down specific applications based on the text studied. Ask, “what must be done immediately to apply this truth in my life?” Good application is specific, achievable, and measurable. Avoid application that is too general to put into practice. Avoid application that is not practically feasible. Also, develop applications so that there will be a clear indication when they are lived out or not.

Without application, interpretation is merely a mental exercise. You must do more than just understand what God’s word says. The faithful interpreter must also obey it (Jas 1:22-25). The Bible was not written to satisfy our curiosity. It was written to transform our life through the Holy Spirit who empowers believers to obey the will of God. The ultimate goal of studying God’s word is to allow the Bible to do something to you so that truth is lived out to the glory of God.

I want to encourage anyone reading this to begin reading the Bible this very day (Ps 19:7-11). Read it daily and read it with child-like faith and humility with an earnest desire to understand it (Ps 86:11). Read it in a spirit of obedience and self-application (Ps 119:4-5). Allow Scripture to influence your heart and life (John 17:17). Read all of it (2 Tim 3:16; Matt 4:4). Read it carefully by observing what the text says, interpreting the author’s intended meaning and applying what the text means in your life, so that the work of the triune God is put on display. And pray, pray, pray!

• Click to catch up on church news!

Studying God’s Word: Interpreting What the Text Means

Mike Srisam-angChurch Blog

Studying the Bible - Interpretation
Studying God’s word requires proper heart preparation and careful observation of what the text says (please refer to the previous posts). Now it is time to move from gathering information (observation) to understanding meaning (interpretation). Text-driven interpretation is the process where you are seeking to answer the question, “what does the text mean by what it says?”

When dealing with how we interpret Scripture, our desire is not to discover new meanings, but the author’s intent. Whenever we approach a biblical text, our aim must not primarily be “what is in it for me?” or “what could it mean?” or “what does it mean to me?” but rather “what did the author mean?”

The author’s meaning of a biblical text is the goal of interpretation. Meaning is what the author intended by the words and grammar he used in the time that he wrote it. Since the meaning of a text is what the author intended the text to say and not what the interpreter wishes the text would say, nor what the text could mean apart from the author, there is only one meaning found in each passage – that of the author’s. In other words, the meaning of a biblical passage does not change from interpreter to interpreter, from culture to culture, or from generation to generation. The author has the authority over his words. Thus, it remains constant and is objective. There is only one correct interpretation and it is the interpreter’s responsibility to diligently seek and discover that interpretation (2 Tim 2:15).

The interpreter must put aside what they desire the text to say, focus on what the writer intended in his text, and submit to that intent with full obedience. Doctrinal convictions, theological systems, and personal preferences must be submitted to the authors of Scripture and their intents as expressed by their texts. To reverse this order is to make the reader authoritative.

The practice of interpretation involves seeking the author’s intent by interpreting the text literally. The literal interpretation of the text is the interpretation of the words and grammar as they were generally and normally understood at the time the text was written. This requires that the interpreter avoid allegorizing the words or ideas of a text, or twisting them in such a way as to ignore their plain, literal, or normal meaning. At the same time, literal interpretation does not ignore the use of figures of speech. Rather, it is literal interpretation – correctly applied – which identifies figures of speech and leads to their proper understanding.

As was stated in the last post, observation deals with what a passage says. Whereas interpretation deals with why the passage says what it says. It explains the meaning of a passage. Your job is to understand and determine the author’s main point using your observations and asking the right questions.

Take your observations of the text and ask questions of them. “What did he mean?” “What is the precise meaning of this term in this context?” “What is the relationship between the words in the sentence?” This will help define the terms. “Why did he say that?” “Why is the passage there?” This will help uncover the author’s purpose.

It is also important to be mindful of the main idea of the immediate context that precedes and the immediate context that follows. This provides you with the general boundaries in determining the meaning of the text at hand. As you would expect, the main idea of a given text will flow naturally out of the previous context, and flow naturally into that which follows as well.

Once we have arrived at the author’s intended meaning for the text, we must evaluate it in light of divine revelation that has chronologically preceded the text being interpreted, but not revelation that chronologically followed. This protects the theological context of the biblical author (he possessed only revelation that had been given to that point in time) and prevents later texts from overruling or being read into earlier texts. “Does my tentative conclusion agree with what is known about other texts of Scripture?” Scripture cannot and does not contradict itself. We must allow Scripture to interpret Scripture and for the word of God to speak for itself.

Therefore, the best way to interpret Scripture is to consider the principles of grammar and the facts of history to determine the biblical author’s intent and meaning. The name ascribed to this method of interpretation is the grammatical-historical method. The principles of grammar focus on the meaning of words and how they relate to one another in a sentence. It refers to understanding the sentence in a direct, ordinary, and literal manner. The facts of history consider the context of the time and circumstances in which the author wrote and focuses on the background of the text.

Once we have examined the text and come to a conclusion of what the author means by what he says, the next step is to apply what the text means. That will be discussed in next week’s post.

Click to catch up on Church News!

Studying God’s Word: Observing What the Text Says

Mike Srisam-angChurch Blog

Studying God's Word
Studying God’s word requires proper heart preparation. I proposed in last week’s post that the necessity of prayer, the requirement of purity, and the mindfulness of perspective are important as we approach the word of God. We need to realize our dependence and desperate need of divine guidance as we look to God’s Spirit inspired word. God requires our hearts and lives to be pure as we come before his holy word. This means that as Christians confession and repentance are a part of our daily lives. We are also to be mindful of having the perspective of not only applying the truth of Scripture to our lives but to pass along the truth of God’s word to others. This protects us from studying for purely accumulating knowledge.

With that in mind, we’re ready to open up our Bibles and study God’s word. We’ve prepared our hearts and now it’s time to observe what the text says. This is where we become nosy. This is where we ask and answer questions pertaining to what the text says. This is the time when we try to find out everything we can about the text that we are studying. So where do we begin? Let me offer a big picture practical guide for starting the study of a book of the Bible.

Before observing what the text says in the specific passage that you are studying within the book, you first need to be familiar with the context of the entire book. This would require reading and re-reading the book so that you can get a feel for why the author is writing it. What is the author communicating? What is the author’s purpose in writing it? What is the book’s overall central argument? After reading the book over and over, you should be able to come up with a concise 1-2 sentence preliminary purpose statement answering the question: Why did the author write this?

It would also be a great benefit to understand the historical context of the book. When was it written? To whom was it written? What is the background? What is the setting? Various amounts of information can be gathered from the biblical book itself. In addition to the biblical book, other sources can provide a great deal of information. I would recommend getting a good study Bible and reading the introduction section to the book (ask your pastors if you are interested in more resources).

Now that you understand the broader context, you can begin to sequentially study specific passages as you move through the book. You want to identify the main idea of the passage that you are studying. This will involve being a careful reader of the text and making text-driven observations. This means that you are drawing out of the text information that is there to support the author’s main idea of that passage. We are not yet asking, what does the text mean, but only seeking to observe, analyze, identify the parts of speech, analyze grammatical relationships, and asking the who, what, where, when, why, and how questions from the text.

No verse in the Bible stands alone and so observing the broader context of the biblical book and the immediate context within the book itself will keep us from imposing into the text something that is not there. We want to put ourselves into the mind of the author. This will lead to a more accurate interpretation of what the text means and application of what the text means. More will be said next week about understanding the author’s intended meaning as we look at the next step in studying God’s word, which is interpreting what the text means.

Click to catch up on church news!

Studying God’s Word: The Importance of Heart Preparation

Mike Srisam-angChurch Blog

The Bible is God’s divine revelation to man. This is how God has spoken to us (2 Pet 1:19-21) and this is how we can hear his voice. It is verbally inspired in every word and absolutely inerrant in the original documents. The Scriptures contain the very mind and thoughts of God (Isa 55:8-9), as well as the will of God for your life (2 Pet 1:3).

The word of God itself testifies to its own importance. We are reminded of that in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

As a result, you can be confident that the word of God is the sufficient source of wisdom and practical instruction. It will guide and train you in your Christian life and provide you with truth leading to sanctification (John 17:17).

The Bible is not like any other book. It is unique in that it contains the divine wisdom of God and it requires the Spirit of God to comprehend it (1 Cor 2:1-16). Therefore, you must approach Scripture with the proper dependence and a right heart. You must have your focus on God and depend upon the Holy Spirit to teach you and to give you understanding.

Here are three things to remember as you prepare your heart daily to study God’s word:

  • The necessity of prayer

Since you need the Holy Spirit to give you understanding, it is necessary to pray. The psalmist prays in Psalm 119: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (v.18),” and “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it (vv.33-35).” You need to realize your dependence and desperate need of divine guidance as you study God’s word.

  • The requirement of purity

You cannot ever hope to understand the word of God unless you deal with and repent from the sin in your life beforehand. James 1:21 says, “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness (first) and (then) receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” Am I continuing to confess my sins (1 John 1:9)? Am I coming to the pure word in an unclean manner? “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet 1:16). God is holy and you must approach him with reverence, a holy longing, and pure motives.

  • The mindfulness of perspective

Why am I doing this? What is the motivation? Studying is not an end in itself. There is a purpose for the study. You are not a spiritual cul de sac. Yes, studying is to learn more about God to be able to worship him more, but studying is also intended for the practical application of the things that you learn (Jas 1:22). In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 we are called to be servants and faithful stewards of the mysteries of God. In other words, we have a responsibility to pass along the truth of God’s word (2 Tim 2:2). Who can I encourage and benefit with what I have learned? Who am I going to share with today? You study to receive and to give. That is the perspective you are to have.

All of this takes place before you even open up your Bible to 1) observe what the text says, 2) to interpret what the text means, and 3) to apply what the text means. During the next three weeks, we will be looking at each one of these components in order to help us study God’s word.

Click to catch up on church news!

Sunday Night Worship Gatherings

Michael WilburnChurch Blog

On four of the final six Sundays this year Immanuel will gather for an evening worship service. I want to challenge you to attend. I think that if you come you will not only benefit yourself but also bless others. I hope you will break the habit of never coming and build the routine of showing up. I hope you will regret finishing the 4:30 NFL game (we have TiVo for that) or worrying about Monday’s workload (we have Matthew 6:34 for that). These are loving pastoral admonitions for your good. None of us spend enough mutually beneficial and encouraging time with Christians.

Why Gather Twice on Sundays?
Here is how we define a service gathering: Because we believe the church is a family we gather in one place at one time most Sunday nights. Our goal is to worship and fellowship as prescribed in the Bible by hearing, praying, and singing God’s Word together. We also meet early to encourage you to linger after the service or eat dinner together. Please join us tonight as we love and care for one another.

Why Gather at 5:00 PM?
Great question. Here are some answers: (1) to encourage post-services meetings showing that the gathering is more important than the committee meetings or choir practice, (2) to preempt dinner, after which we are less likely to leave the house, in general, and less likely to attend church, in particular, (3) to maximize daylight for those who struggle to drive after dark, (4) to accommodate Sunday night choir rehearsal, (5) to make evening services accessible to families with young children, (6) to create a personable and less apprehensive service for guests, and (7) to allow for hospitality over dinner or dessert afterward.

Why Should You Gather with the Church?
Sunday night service gatherings provide a platform to obey God’s Word. Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Don’t miss out on the life of the church. When we gather sermons will guide, updates will inform, relationships will grow, votes will decide, and prayers will intercede…all on Sunday night.


Pastor Michael

Click to catch up on church news!

Thanksgiving Pie & Praise: What to Expect?

Michael WilburnChurch Blog

HosPie and Praisepitality and Pie
At 5:00 pm on Sunday night, November 18th, our church family will gather in the Fellowship Hall for Thanksgiving Pie & Praise. You can register HERE. Please bring one pie per family and deliver it to the kitchen on Sunday morning. When you arrive, start with dessert, find a place to stand or sit, and enjoy conversation with those around you.

Stories of Grace
Thanksgiving Pie & Praise is a blend of singing and sharing. You are invited to tell stories of grace during the service. How has God blessed you? How as he provided for you, answered your prayers, or saved you? These are stories of God’s grace in our lives. Sharing them for all to hear will give glory to God from whom all blessings flow. Memorable testimonies are specific to people, places, and events, beginning with “I praise God because…” or “I thank God for…”, and intended to encourage the audience.

Coming to the Lord’s Table
The service will end with observing the Lord’s Supper as we worship the Lord Jesus for what he has done to redeem us. Five elders and their spouses will stand at the front with bread and juice representing the body and blood of Jesus. The musicians will lead us to stand and sing a series of songs. You can walk to the front individually (or as a family) at any point while we sing to take the Lord’s Supper. Then return to your seat and continue singing.

Observing the Lord’s Supper in this way represents our response to the Gospel by symbolizing our repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. While the Holy Spirit woos us through conviction, it is the responsibility of every person to receive by faith the gift of salvation. This will bring back sweet memories for Christians who remember walking forward at a public invitation when they first believed.


Pastor Michael

Your iPhone is Telling on You

Michael WilburnChurch Blog

With the launch of iOS 12 last month, Apple now tracks and reports your phone and app usage in a weekly Screen Time report. You can review time usage per-day, weekly time usage, average daily pickups, and total notifications with each category reported individually by the app.

I screen-shot my iPhone. You can see that I spent 3 hours per day and 21 hours total with phone in-hand. I used Instagram, Chrome, Google maps, and Twitterrific the most. To my chagrin, I checked my notifications 81 times per day with Monday and Tuesday as my heaviest usage days. Now, remember Jesus’ words, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.” Before reacting, check your own report.

Just follow the instructions: (1) Open Settings, (2) Tap on Screen Time, (3) Tap your device at the top of the page, then (4) You can view your Screen Time data for the current day or the last 7 days. Weekly reports land on Sunday mornings, which is a feature I’d like to change. Who wants a data dump before attending church?

What can a conscientious Christian learn from Apple’s Screen Time?

Three Takeaways:

Focus on using your phone well rather than using it less
Phone use is a wisdom issue, not a moral issue. Does a Screen Time report tempt you to use your phone less just for the discipline of your own habits? Let go of arbitrary standards. Focus on using your phone for good, helpful, and productive goals.

Reports help self-regulation
Seeing your habits reported in a graph is a reality check. It is like stepping on the scale for your brain. Perhaps fasting from a particular app for a week or a month is in order. Use the downtime to readjust your priorities and regulate future use.

Use your phone to give rather than receive
We can uncover a subtle narcissism in our phone usage by asking the question, “Are my phone habits about me or others?” We know the difference between checking our phone for self-gratification and using our phone for self-sacrifice. So many blessings can be shared through a text, post, or voicemail.


Pastor Michael

Click to catch up on church news!

What should you include in public worship?

Michael WilburnChurch Blog

worshipI remember the beginning of my first pastorate, the congregation included faithful, loving Christians who worshiped together for decades. As any tight-knit group will do, a few odd church family rituals embedded themselves in their unwritten, but expected traditions. One of which was singing “Happy Birthday” to prominent members in the church during the Sunday morning service. The ratio was about one stanza of “Happy Birthday” every other Sunday.

To make it worse, “Happy Birthday” included a second spiritualized verse: “Happy birthday day to you. Only one will not do. Born again means salvation. How many have you?” I always wondered whether “How many have you?” referred to a natural and spiritual birth or multiple salvations. If it confused the pastor surely it confused the members.

As the pastor, I was mortified at what a guest would think. I wondered how the low profile members felt when their birthdays were overlooked. More importantly, I was convinced that we could glorify God in our public gatherings better by focusing less on ourselves and more on Jesus.

How should churches decide what to include in public worship services? What is a healthy gathering in the Bible?

The Regulative Principle vs The Normative Principle
Churches practicing the Regulative Principle include only things clearly warranted in Scripture as part of the worship gatherings. It includes practices found in the Bible such as preaching, praying, singing, giving, and the ordinances of baptism and Lord’s Supper. Churches practicing the Normative Principle include anything not prohibited in Scripture.

Which principle should the church practice? Choosing between them is a wisdom decision. A church must prefer what best glorifies God and edifies the people. Consider the Apostle Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian church in making the choice, “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up” (1 Col 14:26). Notice that “Let all things be done for building up” does not include any cool and catchy idea. “All things” included a hymn, lesson, revelation, tongue, or interpretation. Which principle do you see in this? Paul regulated the service gatherings by narrowing things included in the order of service, even when revelatory gifts were active in the church.

A healthy gathering occurs when a congregation of baptized, covenanting church members meets in one place at one time for worshiping God and hearing his Word resulting in God’s glory and the people’s edification.


Pastor Michael Wilburn

Catch up on church news!