Each year many plan their New Year resolutions. Each year resolutions made become resolutions broken. Resolutions are good, but we are not our resolutions. We are our habits.

An anonymous quote I came across several years ago says it all:

Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become…habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny!

As a pastor, I have conversations with Christians and non-Christians alike regarding their spiritual lives. One of the more consistent conversations revolves around one’s identity or self-perception. We live in a culture that suggests we can be or become whatever we think or dream. The identity crisis that permeates gender and sexuality found its roots in the self-help ideology that believes we can define ourselves, our future, and our successes.

After a recent win for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, Rodgers articulated a belief in himself and self-fulfillment. He went on to say: “I do believe in the power of manifestation and I do believe in momentum and I believe very strongly in the force of the mind. And when you start to believe something strongly, some miraculous things can happen.”

That’s well and good, but the Packers lost last night agains the Detroit Lions. Manifestation and the force of the mind failed Rodgers and the Packers in a game where a win would get them to the playoffs.

Identity and belief is tremendously important, but not in the way self-help gurus and the identity culture we live in would have us believe.

We are first and foremost who God says we are. This means we are image-bearers of God (Genesis 1:28). This truth about identity is for every person on earth regardless of religion, experience, background, or environment.

For those who follow Jesus, we are described as new creatures and the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). While we are sinners by nature, we have been justified by God through Christ (Romans 3:21-26). We have been given the privilege of becoming children of God by faith in Christ (John 1:12). On an on the Bible goes about our identity in Christ.

This is where our habits come to play in our Christian experience. Our habits either support what the Bible says about our identity in Christ or they align with cultural values. Our habits teach and form us. Reading the Word, praying, attending church, memorizing Scripture, being involved in an accountable community, and other disciplines remind us regularly of our identity in Christ and his redeeming and transforming work in our lives. Christians who neglect these spiritually forming habits are in danger of buying into the cultural shortcomings that so pervade education, media, and ideologies.

So in this new year, will you review your habits? Discover whether you’re Bible reading, prayer, and church engagement are adequate to form your faith and walk with Christ spiritually. If you’d like to consider these questions at a deeper level make plans to attend Wilkesboro Baptist during our series on the book of Hebrews. We’re learning what it means to follow Christ who is greater than the patterns, promises, and prophecies of the Old Testament. If you’re not in our community, make sure you’re a part of a Bible-believing church with healthy leadership where you can grow in your knowledge of Christ and find accountability for your habits.

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This past week in worship, I preached a sermon entitled, “Why Polity Matters.” Polity is simply the governing or guiding structures of an organization. Every organization (church) has a polity even if it is not clear or specific. Polity does matter.

As Jonathan Leeman points out in his assessment of the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast, polity is important for church health.

“When an organization is growing and prosperous, nobody cares much about its governing structures or polity. ‘If it ain’t broke, why fix it?’ People only care when things fall apart. Then they clamor, ‘Who has the power of discipline here? And who should be holding whom accountable?’ Discipline and accountability are the first things people wonder about when leaders fail. Why didn’t Driscoll keep himself accountable? Why didn’t the elders? Why didn’t an outside board? And so it goes… Polity is not essential for salvation, but it’s essential for helping the saved walk lovingly and peaceably together. It’s essential for passing the gospel to the next generation. It’s essential, finally, for biblical obedience.”[1]

Too many churches crumble because of internal wars of preference and power. Too many churches falter because of an unwillingness to hold onto theological fidelity. Too many churches are crushed because of leadership failure rooted in pride, a desire for power, or immorality.

A failure in leadership is often preceded by a failure in church polity. I don’t believe a church’s structures can protect against all sin (internal or external), but I have grown to believe that the biblical picture of elder-led congregationalism does offer a healthy and protective framework for pastoral leadership in the life of the church.

After months of praying, thinking, reading, and discussing with staff, deacons, and other church leaders, I shared with Wilkesboro Baptist Church a vision for rewriting our by-laws to include a plurality of elders.

What are elders? There are three interchangeable terms used in the New Testament for what we typically call the pastor. These terms are pastor, elder, overseer. They refer to the office of pastor. Pastor means shepherd and is used in Ephesians 4:11. Elder means an older male with a specific leadership role in the church and is used in Acts 20:17. Overseer means exactly what it suggests, someone who leads by overseeing the ministry of the church and is used in Acts 20:28 as well as described in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.

In this post and subsequent posts, I’m going to suggest several reasons why we should rewrite our by-laws to include a plurality of elders.

In this post, I’m just going to give one of several reasons for a plurality of elders: Biblical Warrant. There is not a didactic passage of Scripture that describes in detail exactly how a church should be structured. However, we do find evidence in both descriptive sections of Scripture (Acts) and prescriptive sections (the epistles) for a plurality of elders. Following are just a sample of Bible verses that reflect this topic. The emphasized words and phrases are mine.

When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them.

Acts 15:4

Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.

Acts 20:17

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Acts 20:28

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:

Philippians 1:1

Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 

1 Timothy 4:14

There are other passages that suggest a similar picture: Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2-4, 22-23; 16:4; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 5:17; Titus 1:5-9; Ephesians 4:11; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1-5; Hebrews 13:17.

With the highlighted words above, note that church is in the singular and elders or overseers is in the plural. Typically, at Wilkesboro Baptist, we’ve had a plurality of deacons. Currently, we have 21. And we do have a plurality of staff. But in terms of structured oversight of the congregation, we have had a Senior Pastor (with staff) and then deacons.

Given the passages above, I believe we need an organized plurality of elders (pastors) who are responsible for leading Wilkesboro Baptist Church.

In subsequent posts, I’ll offer more reasons for this change I’m proposing as well as what a plurality of elders might look like in our church. Here’s what I’m asking of you.

  • Pray for your church and its leaders. I did not embark upon this idea lightly. I do believe it is biblical, which is why I’m preaching on it and you’re reading about it here. Pray that we will be faithful to what God teaches and also wise and patient in how we approach this change.
  • Ask questions. I’ve been thinking on this subject for about 15 years as a minister, studying heavily on it for nearly a year, and having conversations with staff and deacons for that long. I realize some of you heard this for the first time on Sunday or are reading it for the first time here. Feel free to ask questions. I’ll be available personally. Also, our Wednesday night doctrine and devotion study provides an opportunity for you to ask questions about this topic.
  • Continue reading. Follow along in subsequent posts for more information about this subject.

[1] Jonathan Leeman, “An Ecclesiological Take on the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill,”

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