Tag Archives: Ministry

On New Testament Ministry

23: Daily Inspirational Bible Verse

23: Daily Inspirational Bible Verse (Photo credit: [Share the Word])

Professor Black posted this up on his blog this week.

Looks like he has made an addition or two, but nonetheless, I really like these convictions.

Someday, I’ll add a few of my own…

  • I am convinced that the house church rather than the sanctuary church was the New Testament norm.

  • I am convinced of the normalcy of tent-making leadership.

  • I am convinced that the church exists in part to equip all of its members for ministry.

  • I am convinced that the leadership of the church should be shared for the health of the congregation.

  • I am convinced that top-down structures of leadership are unquestionably more efficient. Efficient in doing almost everything other than equipping, which is the primary task of leadership.

  • I am convinced that the process of appointing new elders is best done on the basis of recognizing who is already serving as an elder in the church.

  • I am convinced that any local church that takes seriously Jesus as the Senior Pastor will not permit one man to become the titular head of the church.

  • I am convinced that the essential qualifications for ministry in the church have little or nothing to do with formal education and everything to do with spiritual maturity.

  • I am convinced that the church is a multi-generational family, and hence one of the things that makes the church the church is the presence of children, parents, and other adults.

  • I am convinced that because every local church has all the spiritual gifts it needs to be complete in Christ, believers should be exposed to the full expression of the charisms (grace-gifts) when they gather, in contrast to specialized ministries that center around singularly gifted people.

  • I am convinced that the local church is the scriptural locus for growing to maturity in Christ, and that no other training agency is absolutely needed.

  • I am convinced that the local church ought to be the best Bible school going.

  • I am convinced that Paul’s letters were not intended to be studied by ordinands (a candidate for ordination) in a theological college but were intended to be read and studied in the midst of the noisy life of the church.

  • I am convinced that the church is a theocracy directly under its Head (Jesus Christ), and that the will of the Head is not mediated through various levels of church government but comes directly to all His subjects.

  • I am convinced that the goal of leadership is not to make people dependent upon its leaders but dependent upon the Head.

  • I am convinced that since all believers are “joints” in the body, ministry is every believer’s task.

  • I am convinced that pastor-teachers, as precious gifts of Christ to His church, are to tend the flock of God by both personal care and biblical instruction, equipping God’s people for works of service both in the church and in the world.

  • I am convinced that the role of pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation.

  • I am convinced that leaders should communicate that every part of the body is interrelated to the other parts and indispensable; every member will be appreciated, every charism will be treasured.

  • I am convinced that the whole church, the community of all the saints together, is the clergy appointed by God for ministry.

  • I am convinced that everyone needs to be equipped for his or her own ministry both in the church and in the world. If the church is to become what God intended it to be, it must become a ministerium of all who have placed their faith in Christ. The whole people of God must be transformed into a ministering people. Nothing short of this will restore the church to its proper role in the kingdom of God.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Quoteable – On Baptism…and Pastors

From Dave Black’s Jan. 29, 2012 blog:

You know there is no place in Scripture that says a ‘pastor’ must baptize someone.

Representation of baptism in early Christian art.
Image via Wikipedia
Tagged ,

Toward A Functional Ecclesiology (Part 2 of 2) […or Professional Ministry – FAIL!]

Anglican priest or deacon in choir dress

Today, Alan Hirsch posted a quick quote from Richard Hays on FB:

Our habit of thinking of ministry as a ‘profession’ is likely to produce serious distortions in our conception of the church and our role within it ~ Richard B. Hays, 1 Cor.3:18-23

While this is crystal clear to me, I know many Christians simply do not see the distortion (see Part 1).  This just goes to show how deeply ingrained we are in our contemporary Western culture and how utterly out of touch we are with the culture of the early church.

There is a popular phrase that states “form follows function” meaning:

If an object has to perform a certain function, its design must support that function to the fullest extent possible. – Digital Web Magazine

In fact, the context in which this was taught was in a class on church planting.  And this makes perfect sense, the form follows the function; the design supports how the church works.  So, if we have professional ministers, the church structure, from the organizational chart all the way to the actual performance of ministry, in all practicality must serve the professional minster.

Yet, the “fail” is seen in the fact that upon reading the New Testament there simply were no professional ministers or hierarchy, and the design, the form, was quite different from what we have today.

This, then begs the question: If we notice this difference, how do we go about changing it?  How do we get back to the original intent?  How do we essentially allow for purposeful change that will benefit the church and in turn benefit society?  How do we return to a functional ecclesiology?

The answer begins with embracing and encouraging a ministry supported by the New Testament in which all are ministers and all have received gifts and empowerment by the Holy Spirit to serve as Christ here and now every day of the week at any given place on the planet…and maybe beyond!

Take a look at these passages: Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 4.

The church is the body, all having a part to play.  There are no professional ministers.

Now, there are indeed leaders, often called elders, but nowhere do we see these individuals taking over for the body.  Their function is to encourage service – not to take it and to protect the body – not to control it.

Take a look at 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 for more on this.  Again, no professional here either.

So, in short, both the church and her leaders need to be willing to reevaluate the current system to see how functional or dysfunctional it really has become.

Tagged , , , , ,

How Do YOU Interpret The Bible? (Part 1 of 4)

KJV Bible

I have come to realize that I have been taught how to read the Bible in several different and interesting ways in my lifetime.

In Junior High, my Lutheran school taught me to interpret the Bible according to Luther’s Small Catechism.

A local Calvary Chapel seemed to want to take the Bible literally, unless of course we were speaking about the book of Daniel or Revelation and end times prophecy, which seemed to be interpretation by current events. Later I would find that this could loosely be defined as Dispensationalism.

In college, I was taught a very specific technique: the Historical-Grammatical method.  Here the focus was on the historical background, culture, literary genre, grammar, syntax, and discourse analysis.

In seminary, I continued to develop my historical-grammatical skills, though in many ways I found myself pushing its limits and venturing out into seemingly uncharted territory.  It was here that I began to see that my tried and true hermeneutic didn’t seem to be the all-in-one tool that it was billed to be.

Since then, I have come to realize that there are many ways in which people interpret scripture.  Of course, not all of them can be right.  Just look at all the varied results!  Yet, I believe we must strive to do our best to understand what the Bible meant to the original audience and only then to discover what that means for us today.

In the very near future, I will outline where I am today with regard to interpreting the Bible and expand on the methods by way of investigating some current and popular debates surrounding Christians today.

Tagged , , ,

Toward A Functional Ecclesiology… (Part 1 of 2)

Church

Image by Chewbacski via Flickr

…or, as Dave Black put it, “What Does a New Testament Church Look Like?

I liked what he wrote so much I will simply quote it verbatim:

I am convinced that the house church rather than the sanctuary church was the New Testament norm.

I am convinced of the normacy of tentmaking leadership.

I am convinced that the church exists in part to equip all of its members for ministry.

I am convinced that the leadership of the church should be shared for the health of the congregation.

I am convinced that top-down structures of leadership are unquestionably more efficient — efficient in doing almost everything than equipping, which is the primary task of leadership.

I am convinced that the process of appointing new elders is best done on the basis of recognizing who is already serving as an elder in the church.

I am convinced that any local church that takes seriously Jesus as the Senior Pastor will not permit one man to become the titular head of the church.

I am convinced that the essential qualifications for ministry in the church have little or nothing to do with formal education and everything to do with spiritual maturity.

I am convinced that the church is a multigenerational family, and hence one of the things that makes the church the church is the presence of children, parents, and other adults.

I am convinced that because every local church has all the spiritual gifts it needs to be complete in Christ, believers should be exposed to the full expression of the charisms (grace-gifts) when they gather, in contrast to specialized ministries that center around singularly gifted people.

I am convinced that the local church is the scriptural locus for growing to maturity in Christ, and that no other training agency is absolutely needed.

I am convinced that the local church ought to be the best Bible school going.

I am convinced that Paul’s letters were not intended to be studied by ordinands in a theological college but were intended to be read and studied in the midst of the noisy life of the church.

I am convinced that the church is a theocracy directly under its Head (Jesus Christ), and that the will of the Head is not mediated through various levels of church government but comes directly to all His subjects.

I am convinced that the goal of leadership is not to make people dependent upon its leaders but dependent upon the Head.

I am convinced that since all believers are “joints” in the body, ministry is every believer’s task.

I am convinced that pastor-teachers, as precious gifts of Christ to His church, are to tend the flock of God by both personal care and biblical instruction, equipping God’s people for works of service both in the church and in the world.

I am convinced that the role of pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation.

I am convinced that leaders should communicate that every part of the body is interrelated to the other parts and indispensable; every member will be appreciated, every charism will be treasured.

I am convinced that the whole church, the community of all the saints together, is the clergy appointed by God for ministry.

In conclusion, the fundamental premise upon which I operate is that each believer in the church needs to be equipped for his or her own ministry both in the church and in the world. If the church is to become what God intended it to be, it must become a ministerium of all who have placed their faith in Christ. The whole people of God must be transformed into a ministering people. Nothing short of this will restore the church to its proper role in the kingdom of God.

Tagged , , , , , ,

God, Gentiles and Grace – On the Essence of the Inclusion Debate

Capernaum synagogue

Image via Wikipedia

I recently heard Alistair Begg give an excellent summary (found here, about 17 minutes into the broadcast) of one of Jesus’ most compelling confrontations.

The text at hand is Luke 4:14-30:

14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. 15 He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.[f]

20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

22 Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

23 Then he said, “You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’—meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ 24 But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.

25 “Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”

28 When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. 29 Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, 30 but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.

Why were those in the synagogue so angry?

It is here that Alistair gives the following maxim (in a paraphrase):

The salvation which Jesus proclaimed they [the Gentiles] need, but don’t deserve.

and

The salvation which Jesus proclaims we [the Jews] deserve, but do not need.

Brilliant!  I am not sure if this is his own idea or if it has been passed down, but this is the essence of one of the primary early church debates – How do the Gentiles fit into God’s plan of salvation.

The legalists knew the Gentiles needed the One True God, but could not comprehend them receiving it simply by faith.  Surely, they must conform…look, walk and talk like us.

The legalists also knew that Jesus’ teachings bothered them.  They were just too easy, too open compared to what they knew the religious life to be.

As a result, they believed that they deserved what Jesus was offering, but did not want it as he presented it.

Alistair Begg continues by making the comparison with modern Christians:

Surely those outside the church need Jesus, but they don’t deserve it…just look at how they live.

We Christians deserve salvation, look how obedient we have been!  We just want it to look like something we would design…a nice orderly, religion that can be left at church on Sundays.

I thought this to be quite a good, though basic, summary of one of the earliest debates among the church – that of inclusion of “outsiders” and how that works out in practice.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

How did the church in China grow from 2 million to 120 million in 60 years?

Great new video posted on the Verge Network featuring Alan Hirsch giving a workshop on Organic Systems.

He attributes the growth to the lack of a centralized and defined leadership.  The exponential growth is a direct result of an organic system:

Everyone gets to play…everyone.  And we’ve locked all that up because we’ve professionalized the ministry.

He goes on to discuss the negative effects of ordination and the clergy/laity distinction:

If I were the Devil and I wanted to strike a real blow at the people movement (the exponential growth) one of the best ways to do it would be to create a clergy class and a laity class.

I couldn’t agree more!

On the positive side, he presses into the early church model of everyone serving as they are gifted as found in Ephesians 4:

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it[a] says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”[b]

9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

I agree with Hirsch that one cannot find a developed/centralized leadership expressed in the New Testament and that is why there was such success in the beginning years of the church.

Conversely, the church, especially in the West has become almost universally stagnant in its most recognized and accepted form.

It is certainly refreshing to see so many people interested in moving up and out of the current and ill-fated systems of programmatic church for the real life seen not only in the New Testament, but clearly in China, India and many other parts of the world.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Women And Ministry In The Early Church

I see this as one of the most pressing issues and also one of the most fruitless issues in the church today.  I typically don’t give much time or effort to it because I am settled in my stance – a fully inclusive approach – which I see as the practice of the early churches.

That said, here is an excellent video in which NT Wright briefly addresses the issue quite well.

He encapsulates my primary take on the issue at 4:20 into the video where he states that the only way one would have a problem with women involved in ministry is if they hold church tradition over the scripture itself.

That is exactly the crux of the issue, and the problem only gets worse the more tradition is added over the centuries leaving us with an exhausting, divisive and distracting debate among Christians these days, which Paul also warned about.  (1 Timothy 1, for “those who have ears”…)

The book Wright refers to at the end of the video is his Paul For Everyone: The Pastoral Epistles, a very approachable and well written commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus.  It reads much like a conversation yet also handles the issues quite well, so I highly recommend the series.  You can also see similar and more in depth info. on his site here.

We must keep in mind the original setting of 1 Timothy.

Paul is writing to Timothy, a young leader in Ephesus, who is asked by Paul to help keep the churches there focused on sound teaching and practice.

In Ephesus, was the Temple of Artemis, which NT Wright explains:

…was a massive structure which dominated the area.  As befitted worshippers of a female deity, the priests were all women.  They ruled the show and kept the men in their place.”  (Paul For Everyone: The Pastoral Letters pg. 25)

So, we see that the setting in which Timothy found himself was one in which women held a special and esteemed place in society in the popular religious cult of the community.  The church, in order to proceed among the Ephesians in sharing the gospel of Jesus must be careful to do at least two things:

  1. Maintain the beliefs and practices that Jesus had left and that his apostles passed on to the churches.
  2. Maintain a distinction from the popular cultural religious practices, especially since these practices directly challenged and would compromise the teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles.

In this light, it makes sense for Paul to ask Timothy to set standards that would ensure that the church would develop in a healthy manner in the midst of the popular pagan cult.  NT Wright states that Paul’s concern was that:

…men and women alike can develop whatever gifts of learning, teaching and leadership God is giving them.  (Paul For Everyone: The Pastoral Letters pg. 26)

The goal then, is not simply to put restrictions on women.  It is to challenge both men and women to leave behind the old stereotypes concerning men and women.  (1 Tim. 2:8-9)

  • Men should seek action in prayer as opposed to being loud, argumentative and factitious.
  • Women should seek beauty and significance in wisdom and good deeds as opposed to fancy dress and jewelry.

Primarily then, the church – men and women alike – should seek to represent Christ and his gospel above all – above culture, religion, and typical male/female distinction.  The goal is to ensure a “good testimony” as Jesus did.  (1 Tim. 6:13-14)

As we can see then, much of the argumentation on this topic simply misses the point.  In the process of reading and interpreting the Bible, it is imperative that we not impose our own cultural or traditional baggage onto the text, but let it inform and challenge us to re-interpret our culture and traditions in light of Jesus Christ and what he calls us to be and do as his church.

Tagged , , ,

Things That Make You Go, Hmmm – Romans 1:11-12

OK, so Paul is introducing himself to the church in Rome and he needs to gain their trust and respect.

How does he do it?

He writes:

“For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord.  When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.”

So, bringing a gift, that should help.  But more importantly a spiritual gift, something expressly given him by God to give away to the churches for their spiritual gain.

Then, he further expresses what will happen when they meet.  Encouragement between them – Paul to the church in Roma Rome (tip of the hat to my ancestors!) and the church in Rome to Paul.

Now, how does that happen?  What does it look like?

Paul knew that Christian ministry flows two directions.  The church, after all, is a body.  All the parts serve, nourish and enhance one another.

He shares and encourages others and the church shares and encourages him.

Tagged , , , , ,

On Pastoral Ministry And Financial Stability – Part 1 of 2

I just stumbled across a well written article on Pastoral Ministry (via Dave Black’s site) and the question of salary or pay for this work.

Why reinvent the wheel when someone else has already done so!

The full article is here.

I particularly liked the following concluding thought:

“If our churches truly implemented New Testament patterns of ministry, one wonders whether there would be any real need to support one, full-time pastor? If the local church had a functioning priesthood (as opposed to the passive, spectator event that is the mark of most churches) and an equally shared eldership, there simply would not be the urgency or necessity to hire someone on a full-time basis. This is because (1) leadership responsibilities would be shared; (2) one man and his gifts would not become the focal-point of the meeting; (3) corporate teaching would be shared and not left to one sole pastor; and (4) each member would actively participate and contribute to the meeting.” (Darryl Erkel)

Consider what would happen to the church if such a model once again became the norm?  I can think of ten things right off the top of my head that would make the church stronger, yet I cannot think of one single thing that would make it weaker.

So, the question as I see it is this:

What was the reason for the change?

Fundamentally, the answer is found throughout the Bible as we read story after story.  This is nothing new to God.  He has seen this over and over for years, centuries, millenia!

The answer centers around one central idea – God is not enough.

Ponder that, and I’ll post more on this topic later…

Tagged , , , ,