“I wish I could find a small but faithful church to attend. I’d leave the HBF [Harvest Bible Fellowship] in a flash. So tired of being marketed to as if I were a consumer and the church was Madison Ave.”
This comment, which was recently posted on BSI, taps into a core problem faced by many Evangelicals today. And lest the reader wonder, this is not an isolated situation. Over the past several months, Scott and I have been asked on numerous occasions where we attend church and why. Clearly, many within the body are struggling to find a faithful church home; and thus, we post this today in the hopes of helping anyone who is currently searching. While we cannot tell you where to go, we can tell you where we have planted our roots.
In the spring of 2010, my family (and Scott’s family as well) left Harvest Bible Chapel. Since that time, we have been to numerous churches in the area; and I have spent countless hours reading, praying and thinking about the nature of the local church. Interestingly enough, while Scott and I have developed different convictions about the local church and what worship should look like, we have both landed at the same house of worship: Village Church of Barrington (VCB), which is pastored by David Jones.
To be clear, the Bible does not give us much in the way of specific direction for the life of the Church (hymns, contemporary songs, polity, types of liturgy, etc.). However. it is explicitly clear on the types of people that should lead the Church. First Timothy 3:1-13 says almost nothing about giftedness, but it speaks overwhelming about the character of the people that lead the Church. Coming out of Harvest, one of our top concerns was the character of the leadership. We are deeply impressed with David Jones. While he is not a perfect man, he models Christ in a way that helps us follow Christ faithfully.
Moreover, David Jones embodies a cross-shaped, Kingdom driven model of leadership, over and against our culture’s hierarchical, power driven model of leadership. Leaders act and decide; there is no argument about that. However, leaders listen and engage the people with humility. I personally have seen this in action at VCB, and I was humbled.
David Jones is also a very faithful and skilled exegete of Scripture. The task of the preacher/teacher is to make known the Word of God to the people. It is not to make them feel entertained, pumped up or excited. The exegete’s job is to make the meaning of scripture clear. It is not to tell the people what you think the text means. The preacher/teacher’s job is to study the text, what the Church has said about the text at various times, and to explain that meaning to the people with clarity. David Jones does this well; and that should come as no surprise. In addition to serving as James MacDonald’s personal research assistant at Harvest Bible Chapel, David was also charged with the task of training the pastors of the Harvest Bible Fellowship.
In addition to his exegetical skills, David Jones is also an excellent counselor. He appears to genuinely care about the people of God. Both Scott and I have turned to him to think and talk through a number of issues; and he has always made the time to be of help. Take for instance the time when Scott unexpectedly found himself dealing with a very tragic death. With no warning and with little to no prior relationship, he was able to walk right into David’s office and pour out his heart. This is what I mean when I say that David is an excellent counselor. Ministry doesn’t happen on a schedule; and it doesn’t happen only with people that you personally know. But David understands this, and in a time of crisis, he served Scott in a way that he will never personally forget.
Having said all of this, a church should never be evaluated solely on the gifts of the Senior Pastor. The church is about the life of the body. It’s about the community of believers being shaped by the contours of the cross. In that regard, the people at VCB seem to be students of Scripture; and there is a culture within that church that cares deeply about theology. They have a robust Sunday School program, which utilizes both lay teachers within the church as well as biblical and theological scholars that teach at seminaries and Christian colleges.
Beyond that, it would also appear that, true to their denominational roots, the Village Church of Barrington is committed to planting churches. So rather than following in the footsteps of the culturally-driven church growth movement, VCB has elected to impose limits on the size of its own body. In other words, if God graciously elects to grow the church, the leadership of VCB are committed to sending out members of the congregation to plant new, autonomous churches that could better serve the needs of their local communities.
Finally, it should be noted that VCB gives between 23 – 25% of its tithe to missions, outside of its own walls. That is a very significant amount of giving for any church to undertake, but VCB has been doing that kind of Kingdom (not all about us) giving for sometime now. If you want to see what people or institutions love. one way to go about it is to look at where they spend their money. Judging them by their checkbook, VCB loves the Kingdom and not just their local church.
For all these reasons, and for reasons we are still discovering as we plug into this local community of believers, VCB has become our new home. And both Scott and I would recommend it to anyone who is currently looking for a church home.