Children’s Sermon Notes Outline

Transitioning children from their Sunday School class to the adult service and sermon is challenging.  Depending on the church size and format, this can happen anywhere between 4th grade and 8th grade.  There aren’t many resources that help children, youth or high school students make the move to the sophistication of a sermon targeted to adults.  The page below is an attempt to create a youth sermon worksheet.  It’s targeted for older middle schoolers or high schoolers, but can be simplified by removing some of the questions for a younger audience.

Children's sermon worksheetThe worksheet covers singing, praying and preaching the word of God as elements of the service.  It assumes that you’ve taught some basic concepts of interpretation such as understanding the context and identifying the genre of a book, but that could be changed as well.  The sermon is applied using the know, be, do structure for knowing God, becoming like Him and following Him.

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Good Friday Resources about the Crucifixion

Here are some resources about the crucifixion, atonement and meaning of the cross as you reflect on Good Friday:

Classic sermons

Articles

Books

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Metzger’s Causes of Error in the Transmission of the New Testament Text

We are blessed with thousands of New Testament manuscripts (over 5,000 fragments) due to the work of many scribes copying the Scriptures throughout the centuries.  This blessing also poses a challenge because many of these writers made changes to the Biblical texts.  The variances or errors introduced deviate from the autographs, and generally only cause minor changes to the meaning, but can be unwound by scholars to reveal with a high probability what the original texts said.

Consider a situation where you receive an important handwritten letter (considered the original autograph) and want many others to be able to read it.  Before the printing press, you’d have had to copy it manually (creating a first generation copy) and maybe have your friends copy it as well to speed the distribution.  As the letter was rewritten, one person may misread a word and write it down incorrectly, another might try to help out by attempting to fix what she thought was an error in the letter and another friend might forget a word because of being interrupted while writing.  Over time, other people my decide to rewrite the letter as well (creating a second generation) and introduce further errors because of misreading handwriting or due to an attempt to clarify a word so that their readers would better understand the letter based on their customs.  Transmitting the letter in this way could go on for many, many generations and introduce hundreds of variances in the letter based on who scribed it and the source document the scribe worked from.  As a result, there become many similar, yet not exact versions of the original letter with much of the meaning continuing, but containing differences in some words or sentences from one version to another.

The science (and art) of unwinding the differences and tracing them back to the original text is called textual criticism.  Textual criticism is helpful to understand variances, but is controversial  as well because many of its practitioners remove large sections of Scripture.  Bruce Metzger was one of the leading (conservative) scholars of New Testament texts and created a list of the types of error that crept into the Scripture that is helpful in understanding how and why the changes introduced over time:

  • Unintentional changes
    • Errors from faulty eye sight – confusion of similar letters (think c and o or m and n in English) resulting in different words or skipping lines that look similar in the text
    • Errors from faulty hearing – the text was sometimes read so it could be copied by multiple scribes; if two different words were pronounced the same they could be mixed up (think red and read or there and their)
    • Errors of the mind
      • Substitution of synonyms
      • Variations in the sequence in words
      • Transposition of letters within a word
      • Usage of the wording of one passage based on a similar passage (think of the synoptic Gospels that tell similar stories slightly differently)
    • Errors of judgment – explanatory notes in the margins of texts incorporated into the text itself
  • Intentional changes – this includes correcting what was thought to be an error or attempting to alter the text to make a doctrine more clear or explicit
    • Changes involving spelling or grammar
    • Harmonistic corruptions – intentionally ‘fixing’ the text to make it align with a similar passage (e.g., Lord’s prayer) or Old Testament reference (to make it better conform to the original text)
    • Addition of natural complements and similar adjuncts – examples would include adding “and Pharisees” to a passage the referenced scribes only or ‘enhancing’ Jesus by including “Lord” before His name when only only his name was mentioned in the text
    • Clearing up historical and geographic difficulties – editing what were thought to be mistakes such as how a place was described or which prophet a quotation was attributed to (Zechariah rather than Isaiah)
    • Conflation of readings – merging of two variant readings together when there were differences in manuscripts such as when one manuscript referenced “God” and another referenced “Lord” in the same passage the words were merged to read “Lord and God” rather than selecting one or the other
    • Alterations made because of doctrinal considerations – removal of problematic passages or changes to phrases to support a desired doctrine
    • Addition of miscellaneous details – examples include naming the criminals crucified with Jesus, adding to Jesus genealogy and providing apocryphal details about Jesus baptism

Source: The Text of the New Testament – Chapter 7

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Qualifications and Role of Deacon

In 1 Timothy, 3:8-13, Paul follow-up his teaching to Timothy about qualification for elders with an explanation of the qualifications for deacon.  Paul writes:

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.  They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

The characteristics Paul lists should sound familiar because they’re very similar to those that he listed for elders:

  • Respectable = Dignified
  • Not a drunkard = not addicted to wine
  • Not a lover of money = not greedy
  • Husband of one wife = husband of one wife
  • Manage household = manage household
  • Manage children = manage children
  • Not a new convert = tested first

Characteristics of Elders and DeaconsDeacons Office Compared to Elders

The two positions have similar character qualities of managing themselves well, maintaining good relationships and maturity.  The only significant differences are the requirements to be in control over mind/body and not be violent/quarrelsome are mentioned for elders, but not for deacons.  However, someone who fell short in these areas would not be put in a deacon role, so the real differences are the elder requirements of hospitality and the ability to teach.  In essence, deacons should be held to the same character standards as elders.

Beyond these 1 Timothy verses about character qualities, nothing else in the New Testament explains the role of deacons or how they should function.  The office of deacon is referenced in Philippians 1:1 when Paul addresses the letter to both elders and deacons, but that’s the only other mention of the office.   Titus 1 helps to clarify the nature of an elder’s teaching responsibility from 1 Timothy 3, but for deacons we don’t have the luxury of finding a clearly passage to allow Scripture interpret Scripture.

How should the position be understood with such limited information?  For one thing, care should be taken to not be dogmatic about the role.   No one can go beyond what Paul is telling us here with any definitive conclusion.  Without the clarity of other texts, the next best option is to look deeper at the nature of the word used for deacon to understand what it describes in other contexts.

The root word for deacon is sprinkled throughout the New Testament.  When the word is used elsewhere, it’s frequently translated as servants and sometimes ministers.  For example, the passage from Matthew (20:26) where Jesus says “the greatest among you shall be your servant” is from the same root word as deacon.

The idea of service, in Greek as diakonous, provides the best direction about the role of deacons.   Jesus tells his disciples to be great servants and there is also verse upon verse where service is highlighted:

  • What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each (1 Corinthians 3:5)
  • For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5)
  • Through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13)

In essence, the deacon (or deaconess) is the model servant among all servants.  He or she removes the administrative weight from the elders, so that they are freed up to teach.

Based on the limited information about deacons, Paul is purely focused on the character qualities and his or her willingness to serve rather than a specific expertise in children’s ministry, financial management or another responsibility of the church.  While it would be imprudent to allow someone incompetent in any area, given the choice between an expert in finance with questionable character and someone with basic skills and good character, you should choose the later.

With the limits of the text, it is also clear what a deacon is not.  Paul does not say that the role is a precursor or step to becoming an elder.  The character requirements are very similar with the most significant difference being the ability to teach.  John Owen argues that far from being a “stepping-stone” to the eldership, diaconal responsibilities actually hinder one from being in a position to move to an elder role.  He says that deacons responsibilities, “lies wholly in the providing and disposal of earthly things, in a serving of tables of the church, and those private, of the poor; but preparation for the ministry consists in a man’s giving himself unto study, prayer, and meditation.” (Beeke, A Puritan Theology – Location 24,432)

To reiterate the difference in church offices, an elder is a model for us with specific gifts of communicating the faith while a deacon is a model of service that everyone should seek to emulate.  Everyone is called to serve, so there’s no reason everyone cannot aspire to serve as a deacon.

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Children’s Ministry Planning

Children’s ministry planning can be challenging.  There are many different areas to consider to help bring kids to know who God is, what He’s done in history and ultimately how He has revealed Himself in Jesus.  This brief document on Children’s Ministry Planning may give you a running start on how to think through the options and prepare for the year.  The PowerPoint slides include:

  • Starting point: A list of the key Bible texts about training children that guide all decision making
  • Overview: Visual representation of the four elements of children’s ministry including the key questions of what to teach, how to teach, who teaches and who it’s taught to guided by the goal of maturity in Christ
  • Goal: Explanation of what maturity in Christ looks like across knowing, being and doing with example milestones.  The know, be, do framework starts with learning (transforming the mind), which then changes our heart through the work of the Spirit and then results in action (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Children: Brief profile of children so that they are taught at the right level.  For example, kids that are in Christian homes or attend Christian schools will have a very different level of understanding than others who have no Christian influence outside of church.  As a result, different curriculum and teaching method will be employed for different sets of students
  • Curriculum: Comparison of facts about each curriculum under consideration.  This could easily be further fleshed out into a more complete assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each
  • Curriculum (continued): Components of the curriculum to consider include how it deals with systematic, Biblical and practical theology along with the spiritual disciplines and church history
  • Pedagogy: Questions to consider about how the lessons are delivered and based on the learning styles and needs of the children
  • Delivery: Questions to consider about who teaches and how to monitor that the material is delivered

One other article to review is teaching techniques to improve learning, which provides you with ideas for how to make the lessons stick better.

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Teaching Techniques to Improve Learning at Church

Educational and cognitive research provides some important insights into how to improve learning and memory.  The key theme is that learning can be enhanced through driving recall by working with taught information in new forms (summarizing, associating, testing) repeatedly over time.  Passively hearing a lesson once is not effective (even with review at the end) in promoting learning of material.  There are several ways to apply this idea to teaching the Bible to children:

  • Have the students explain what they’ve learned to someone else in the class at the end of the class or as a review from the previous class.  This form of recall helps retention of the material.  One way to structure this is to pair younger and older children.  Have the younger child explain what they learned first because they’re less likely to have mastered the material.  The older of the two can then fill in the gaps by explaining the lesson in more detail
  • To improve learning in older kids, have them take notes on key ideas, organize information to compare and contrast it and create associations with what they already know and writing practice questions (source)
  • Test the class on what they learned.  This drives recall better than reviewing the material again in the same lesson (see testing to take tests)
  • Repeating material over time (many weeks) is critical to driving recall, so summarizing key points from previous weeks rather than immediately starting on to new material will reinforce what was learned and move it into long term memory (review research on recall)
  • Increase learning engagement/attention by finding something students can relate to in the lesson; even if the connection is trivial.  For example, a history story that illustrates someone’s trust in God through a trial will be more engaging if it’s setting is from the children’s hometown rather than somewhere they’ve never heard of.  This would likely also apply to engagement with the teacher.  Find some similarity between you and each student to make a connection with them and improve their intake of the material (read more about stories we relate to)
  • Sleep, exercise, not multi-tasking and separating older boys and girls also helps improve learning, but these generally can’t be controlled in a classroom

You can find a summary of additional research here

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Church Planting Checklist

Planting a church involves piecing together many small organizational details that cover the spectrum of theology to management.  A launch team with a wide set of skills is useful to tackle the different kinds of tasks required to open your doors.  An administrative checklist can be helpful to ensure that you aren’t missing any critical items as you work through the steps required to start your church.  This list covers many of the business type items that form the foundation of getting off the ground.

  • Pray for God’s direction and blessing.  A church must be established by Him, for Him and based on the principles He’s given in Scripture.  It goes without saying that this should be continued indefinitely.  A good book to help you pray Biblically is A Call to Spiritual Reformation, which takes you through Paul’s prayers for the church
  • Select or write a statement of faith to define what you believe.  Consider seriously what are the essential elements that you’re going to bind the members to.  For example, is a position on eschatology so important that you want to define your church by it or is it a relatively minor doctrine that you’ll allow people with a spectrum of beliefs to join.  Some examples of statements of faith are from the Westminster Confession, Bethlehem Baptist and The Gospel Coalition
  • Select or write a church covenant to outline how the church will behave as a body of believers.  This document isn’t discussed much, but goes hand-in-hand with the statement of faith.  Desiring God explains why a covenant is needed.  Examples here include Capitol Hill Baptist and Bethlehem Baptist
  • Establish a constitution to frame how the church will be governed including voting rules and administration.  This is a legal document, so it should be carefully constructed including specific content to protect the church
  • Set-up a not-for-profit corporation with your state (and possibly apply for 501(c)(3) status).  Apply for a sales tax exemption. This allows you to avoid state sales tax at retailers based on your not-for-profit status
  • Open a bank account: Some banks have special accounts for not-for-profits.  Consider the minimum balance requirements, branch network, number of free transactions, bill payment offering and fees for going over the free transaction threshold.  BMO Harris has a good offering if they’re in your area
  • Purchase liability insurance: The amount you need will depend on your situation (e.g., size of the space)  and the requirements of your lessor.  You may also need to add sexual molestation insurance
  • Rent a facility: Schools are often a good place to start because they’re relatively reasonable to rent.  They will need to see your certificate of insurance.
  • Purchase a Church Copywrite License (CCLI) for music to ensure that you’re in compliance with copywrite laws
  • Put up a website.  This can be easily done through simple templates at WordPress for free, but they reserve the right to advertise on your site.  If you want to avoid advertising, you’ll need to find a hosting provider and WordPress will direct you to some options.
  • Register the website with Google and Bing.  Register your location with Google maps.
  • Create a Facebook fan page and Twitter handle
  • Consider purchasing church management software for a membership directory, children’s check-in, contribution tracking etc.  Some of the software options are FreshVine, Fellowship One (the most expensive) among others
  • Create professional e-mail messages with  something like MailChimp, which is free if you have less than 12,000 messages per month
  • Register your church with external directories such as The Gospel Coalition9 Marks or others specific to your denomination
  • Develop a budget to cover building, staff, equipment, supplies, benevolence, missions and other needs
  • Decide what to pay your pastor.  Pastoral compensation is complex because of the tax laws associated with it including the housing allowance and double FICA, so study this closely.  Compensation surveys are available from the SBC, CRC , and a large church survey for free and a paid site called Ministry Pay to help guide you on what to pay staff.  There also a guide to negotiating compensation
  • Tackle the issue of ownership of the intellectual property associated with the sermons directly, so there is no conflict about whether they’re owned by the church or the pastor
  • Develop a policies and procedures manual that covers everything from how to count contributions to guidelines for volunteering.  Create a separate one for children’s ministry which may be required for insurance purposes
  • Plan your children’s ministry objectives, what age ranges you’ll teach and what curriculum to use.  Some good options are Children Desiring God, The Gospel Project (SBC) and DiscipleLand (PCA).
  • Within a reasonable time, you’ll want to establish elders (qualifications) and deacons (qualifications) in accordance with 1 Timothy 3
  • Educate your congregation on what membership means.  What is a Healthy Church Member is a great, brief book to use for this purpose

This list isn’t exhaustive, but will hopefully give you a jump start to work through some of the key administrative items when starting a church.  More importantly than fulfilling a checklist is to ensure that the whole council of God is preached in season and out of season, so that disciples are made who love God and their neighbors and observe all that God has commended.

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Activity to Teach Children the Bible’s Storyline

A fun activity that you can do with your children to teach them the storyline of the Old and New Testaments is to work with them to draw out the most significant events on paper or whiteboard.  Have the children think through the major milestones and then order them correctly.  Where appropriate, point out how the events before Jesus looked forward to His coming.  Here’s a New Testament example based on the collaboration of three children:

New Testament events illustrated

The events in this example include the birth of John and Jesus, Jesus’ time in Egypt, His childhood in Nazareth and visit to the temple at 12, His baptism and ministry along with the crucifixion, empty tomb and ascension.  The bottom briefly touches on Pentecost, Stephen’s stoning, Paul’s conversion and the planting of the church in Acts.

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The Great Ejection

Today marks the 351st anniversary of the Great Ejection.  If you’re not familiar with this event of church history, it was one of the most important days in the English speaking church because over 2,500 pastors forsook their livelihood in order to follow God rather than the requirements of the official church in England.  The ejection was caused by the Act of Uniformity, which required conformance to The Common Book of Prayer.  This act was one of four associated with the Clarendon Code implemented to keep pastors from their congregations.  The pastors who were forced to leave their church included:

  • Richard Baxter
  • John Flavel
  • Thomas Brooks
  • Thomas Watson
  • Thomas Manton

The event is worth pausing to reflect upon and to consider what situation would be significant enough for you to quit your job to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

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The Teaching Qualification for Elders – 1 Timothy 3:2

1 Timothy 3:2b –  an overseer must be…sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

When Timothy had received this letter from Paul, nearly three decades had passed since the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  During this period, Paul was running around eastern Europe planting churches (Acts 9-28).  Over the early gestation of the church, one of his biggest challenges was that false teaching was mixed in with good teaching and tainting the Gospel (1 Timothy 1:3, 4:1-3).  To combat the heresy of the 1st century, he writes his letters to Timothy and Titus with the overall theme of identifying false teaching and its results and contrasting it with what the church should be like.  This letter is to help Timothy steer the church in the right direction and a big part of that is naming the right leaders (3:1-13), which is why it’s so helpful for us today.

The overarching characteristic of 1 Timothy 3 is about elders being above reproach in all areas of life and Paul fleshes out what he means by this.  These first four words – sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable – are his sub-points of qualifications under that same idea.  He tells us that an elder must be sober minded, that is control his mind, he must be self-controlled or control his body, he must be respectable, that is thought well of by others and hospitable.  He can’t be afraid to engage with them and host them.

Being above reproach is about having Complete Character.  Paul is guiding Timothy to select men whose lives have been transformed by the Gospel in all areas in relationships (2 Corinthians 5:17) – with their wife and children  (3:2a, 4) and people inside and outside the church (3:2b, 7.)  They must all good stewards of money (3:3) and of their minds and body as well (3:2b).

The last phrase in this passage – the ability to teach – is the unique attribute of elders, but we are left without a detailed explanation of what Paul means by this.  Since we don’t have any details, what should we do?  How do we solve the interpretation problem of having an unclear passage?  We allow a more clear passage to provide its meaning and we receive this clarity in Paul’s parallel teaching to Titus.

Titus 1:8…An elder must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Based on this verse, we can summarize the office of an elder as one who Communicates the Content of the Faith with Conviction and models Complete Character.  There are three points to highlight from this passage in Titus to flesh out the teaching requirement referenced in 1 Timothy.  First, an elder gives instruction, meaning that he’s able to communicate well.  Second, this communication is in sound doctrine, that is the content is pure.  Last, he must hold firm and rebuke those who contradict orthodoxy.

The first element of being able to teach is being able to give instruction – communication

  • We have a God who speaks.  He is here and is not silent.  God says something, then he does it, whether with the creation (Genesis 1:3) or His covenants (Genesis 8:20-9:17, Genesis 12:1-3 and others).  He reaches down to us with His special revelation of Himself and His plan in words.  Without His speaking to us, we only guess at what He is like (Isaiah 44:9) and will end up making Him in our own image to serve our own purposes.  The idea of God speaking and revealing Himself is so central that the first thing that Satan challenged in the garden when he talked to Eve was what God said (Genesis 3:1).
  • God’s representatives in the Old Testament were speakers.  Prophets spoke to the people, priests spoke to God for the people, kings ruled the people by their commands.  The ability to communicate for and with God is core to the offices and it continues to be a requirement of elders in the church.  They must be able to convey the truth God has given to us
  • In a similar vein, Jesus was the “good Teacher” (Mark 10:17).   He was the Word made flesh (John 1:14) and spoke the things from the Father (John 8:28, 12:49).  He accommodated different audiences, young and old, foes and fans, and taught in different style sand contexts.   An elder should have the ability to tailor the message to his audience and convey Biblical doctrines clearly.  This can happen in the context of preaching, informal teaching or one-on-one relationships

The second element of being able to teach is knowing the content of “sound doctrine”

  • To have sound doctrine, a teacher must be a learner, one who has moved past the milk and on to the meat (1 Corinthians 3:2) by transforming his mind with the Scriptures (Romans 8:29) so that he can help you be conformed to the image of God’s Son (Romans 12:2).  He must be able to rightly handle the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
  • He must know the key elements of the Faith (Jude 1:3) including what we believe, how we should act, and how we are to commune with and worship God.  These three elements have historically been summarized by Luther and others as the code, the creed and the communion better known as the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), the Apostles Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).  For most churches today, the essentials are captured in the Statement of Faith, which outlines the Gospel and other essential beliefs about God and man.  An elder must understand these doctrines well
  • Once again, Jesus is our ultimate example of sound doctrine.  He was the Word made manifest (John 1:14), so He was living doctrine as the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).  He captured the essence of the Old Testament law in one word – love (Luke 10:27).  He explained how all road of Biblical history lead to Himself on the Emmaus road (Luke 24:13-35).  He pointed to Himself as the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)

The last element of being able to teach is holding firm to the trustworthy word as taught…and rebuke those who contradict it.  To hold firmly is to have conviction about beliefs.  To rebuke requires conviction as well

  • Conviction is the strong belief in the Gospel and the passion to defend it.  Even the demons know about God (James 2:19), so belief must go beyond mental ascent.  To know if someone is holding firm, consider whether he is like Job (Job 1:21) and Joseph (Genesis 50:20) who waited patiently on God, trusting in his providence in difficult circumstances or in contrast is quick to question what God during times of difficulty. For rebuking contradiction, does the man identify heresy and protect others from being deceived by it or look at it as harmless because he doesn’t recognize the error veiled by some grain of truth?
  • Another way to test conviction is to look at the spiritual disciples of the person including prayer, fasting, giving and evangelism.  If these disciples aren’t exhibited, then you should question the commitment and maturity of the person

Communication, content, and conviction, if any one of these three elements is absent, a person cannot serve as an elder.  These three requirements can be tested to see what happens if one of them is missing.

  • Test 1: Someone who can communicate well and knows the content of the faith, but lacks the conviction in it is a religion professor.  He doesn’t believe what he’s teaching and cannot be an elder
  • Test 2: One who communicates with conviction, but has no Gospel, no true content is one of the false teachers Paul wrote the letter to protect against or what we’d call a liberal pastor today
  • Test 3: A man who knows the content of the Faith and is convicted of it, but has no ability or desire to communicate it is a great member or even a deacon, but not ready to be an elder

If Ezra lived today, he would pass the tests of eldership.  We are told in Ezra 7:10, that he “…set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”  He learned it, lived it and passed it on.

To summarize, an elder who meets Paul’s qualifications is one who Communicates the Content of the Faith with Conviction and models Complete Character.  He knows how to teach, what to teach and believes in what he teachers.  A good elder is one who completes Paul’s directives to Timothy by living as an example to others (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9), so that his walk matches his words, his discipline matches his doctrine and his life matches his learning (Hebrews 13:7, 1 Timothy 4:16).  Select the elders with much care and prayer because God will judge him more harshly than others (James 3:1) and must give account to God for the lives under his care (Hebrews 13:17).

This discipleship video does a nice job of blending being an example as well as teacher to illustrate the idea of being an elder or generally one who is worthy of following.

Next, learn about the office deacon and associated qualifications or view a brief presentation that compares qualification and roles elders and deacons

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