Category Archives: Church

Connecting Church & Family

Southern Seminary had a conference on how and why it promotes what has been coined the “family-equipping” model of ministry. This video is of Dr. Mohler giving some broad strokes for the model and te current cultural crisis which has made it that much more vital that the Church be about equipping parents to shepherd their children.

Of particular importance is the fact that we assume too often that Christian parents are going to know how to parent in a biblical way. The problem is that the parents in our congregations have not had modeled for them how to parent in a way that honors Jesus. Underneath are my rough notes on the talk. The four implications he offers at the end are worth the time to think about. With all of the parenting literature that is out there, too often we have equated faithfulness to a certain method with the biblical method. Thus, we have camps of parenting affinity groups. There is something wrong when someone believes Baby Wise or Rosemond or Tripp are the Gospel–insofar that they bicker with those in “opposing” camps.

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NOTES:

In some ways it is a tragedy that we are having a conference to connect something that should have never gotten disconnected–namely, the family and the church.

  1. 1 Peter 5.1ff
    1. As Peter ends his letter, the tone becomes very sober. He turns his attention to the elders of the church.
    2. Peter has no specific context he is writing to. It is a general epistle; it is full of expectations that are normal and healthy for the church at-large. This is what “normal” in a church ought to look like.
  2. Younger are to give deference to the older people.
    1. There is a proper ordering in the church
    2. This is a sign of humility
  3. We have to remember that we do have an enemy
    1. Those who fail to recognize this are the most likely to be devoured
    2. “Normal” is that there will be a battle
    3. This battle is the background to our parenting and ministry
    4. Those things that are devoured
      1. Families
      2. Homes
      3. Congregations
      4. Leadership
    5. It is an act of great danger if we are not aware of this truth
    6. See Ephesians 5
      1. Paul’s discussion of spiritual warfare in chapter 6 is on the heels of chapter 5, which discusses the family.
    7. Since the family is on the frontlines, it is a primary target for Satan to devour and divide
  4. We have to admit something that is difficult to admit
    1. We have to be better parents than our parents
      1. This is not a denigrate what our parents have done.
      2. Rather, it draws attention to the fact that our contemporary culture is averse to the family unit.
        1. There used to be a a network of support for our parents in our culture.
        2. If Mom A did not know something, and Mom B knew, Mom B would call Mom A to tell her the wayward son’s actions
        3. Television hosted family-friendly shows (Leave It to Beaver, Dragnet, etc) instead of sexually explicit shows (Desperate Housewives, Modern Family, etc)
      3. Parents have to be more aware than parents in the past
      4. “The family has been stripped of all its functions” — Peter Berger
      5. Due to technology, children are not talking on the phone (in the plain hearing of their parents), but are sending covert text messages (with no parental supervision)
  5. Much of the research (from Soul Searching) has shown that a child’s spiritual growth requires parents

Four Implications:

1. Church must present a faithful and vibrant vision for parenting; and it must teach and equip them how to do this

a. Most of the parents in our congregations were not parented

b. The Church has to educate parents who did not have the proper, biblical model for parenthood

2. Church must overcome the zone of privacy and personal autonomy (held dear by our culture) that separates believers from accountability and fellowship

a. We have got to get in each other’s space

b. Our spheres belong to Christ and not us

c. When a marriage is not what it should be, the Church MUST step in and help

3. The Church has got to be a place where brokenness is overcome by the Gospel and the fellowship of the saints

a. We undermine the Gospel when we say that Christianity can only be experienced by non-brokenness

b. This brokenness demonstrates the glory of Christ

4. The Church has to be a place where the family (specifically) and Christians (generally) is rescued and armed for the combat to which we are called

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Filed under Church, Culture, Family | Parenting

Specialization in the Church Will Stunt Her Growth

Reading Peter Brown’s formative biography on Augustine (rev. 2000 edition). In it he makes this profound connection between the halt of evangelism and elitism in the Church:

There was one other split in the moral ideas of his hearers which Augustine could do nothing to heal: for it was a split within Christian ethics itself. The Christian communities had come increasingly to accept a dangerous degree of ‘moral specialization’: one life was left for the ‘perfect’, another for the average Christian. And it was just this widening gulf between an ascetic elite and a passive rank and file which brought the Christianization of the Roman world to a halt. (Peter Brown; Augustine of Hippo: A Biography; University of California, 2000; p. 245).

Could it be that many clergy are making such a dichotomy in their congregations when they fail to show their people how to read their Bible, how to obey rightly, how to die sacrificially as any other priest would?

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Filed under Christian Living, Church, Evangelism, Pastoral

Preaching and Power

I just finished listening to Piper’s biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones at the 1991 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. In a section of the biography, Piper elucidates Lloyd-Jones’ view of continuation of the spiritual gifts for the post-apostolic church.

I am a member of a relatively small group of Reformed people who believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a distinct work of God from the incorporation by the Spirit at the moment of faith and repentance. In other words, I believe that God unusually blesses people with an enflaming passion and boldness for his glory at peculiar times. It is true, we are baptized into Christ at the moment of conversion (Rom 6:3; 1Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27).

Yet Jesus tells his disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until the Spirit comes upon them in power for witnessing. There are two arguments against affirming a special unction by the Spirit. First, people argue that to say power encounters accompany preaching detracts from the power inherent in faithful Gospel preaching (Rom 1:16). Lloyd-Jones commented that if the pre-eminent preachers of the Church (Peter, Paul, and Stephen) were endued with power in their preaching (in a way explicated in the Scriptures), then why should we not expect such power to come for present-day “average” preachers of the Gospel

Second, people have argued with me that there was a special authentication given to the Apostles to solidify their preaching in the beginning of the Church. This seems precarious because it raises the question as to how such primitive Gospel preaching is different than today’s situation within the context of a pluralistic society? Or even reaching back a few centuries, how was the authentication by Spirit-wrought power not necessary during Columba or St. Patrick’s ministry among the blood-saturated culture of the Celts? Is it not a problem to say that such pentecostal blessing was only necessary during the inception of the Church? Is that inception not still going on in Papa New Guinea or the Amazon or China?

I found that my bristling at such mention of the Spirit was rooted in my ignorance. I was far too worried about what people thought about Christians rather than longing for such blessing to be showered down from heaven. What magnificent things would happen if God brought revival to our world! Is your inclination to fear what people would think rather than seeing conversions?

Let me explain. Christians have so sought to be accepted by the world around them by planning financial seminars and community clean-ups – which are important to loving our neighbors – that it seems that to stick out like a sore thumb is a curse and not a blessing, Among those that have over-reacted to fundamentalism have we forgotten the strategic blessing of standing out? Have we married grass roots evangelism to the detriment of power encounters with the Holy One? It appears so.

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Filed under Church, Interpretation, Pastoral, Pneumatology, Theology

Why I Love My Church [9]

I have been posting on this topic as various reasons have come to mind. While I have thought of many things, I just haven’t posted on it in a while (before this recent burst of posts I hadn’t posted on anything for that matter).

One of the things I love about Third Avenue is that it is predominantly filled with seminary students, but the pastor does not have a MDiv. Why would this be a characteristic that I love about my church? The tendency among seminarians (and the average congregant) is that the pastor needs to have the biggest title (or at least something equivalent to the majority of the congregation). 

By the pastor not having an MDiv, it reminds all of us that a title does not anoint a man to preach. It does not even mean that the bearer of the degree loves Jesus. It reminds us that God has called men to preach. 

Getting a degree is a very good thing (I firmly believe in getting a solid education). What I fear is that too many equate competency with formal education. Knowledge can puff up, but love builds up. The first question we should ask an ordination candidate is, “Do you love Jesus? Do you love people?” Not, “Where did you go to school?” The latter should be on the list of questions, no doubt. Good doctrine is critical to appropriate worship. But do not think that PhD means that you are qualified. Christ Jesus has made us competent, not the diploma.

It is striking that the list of qualifications for elders is about character. Doctrine undergirds it all, but in many congregations it appears that learning alone has replaced the shepherd aspect of the pastor.

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Training Pastors…and Laying on of Hands

As I wrote in my May 14 post, many classes in the seminary need to be re-located. Classes that are by nature reliant upon practice need to be moved. You CANNOT teach preaching in a classroom. It comes by doing it. One of my mentors told me this when I was at Bethlehem. I agree entirely. My preaching has improved as I have given Sunday night devotions at Third Avenue.

You CANNOT teach evangelism. You can teach the content and varied methods of proclaiming the evangel. But this is not sufficient in “teaching” evangelism. That takes place when someone welcomes visitors at church, gets visitor cards from the elders, and calls folk up and meets them for coffee to talk about spiritual matters.

You CANNOT teach leadership. It is learned by following closely behind a leader and then leading yourself. Sure, you can teach methods and theory. This is what the seminary can do.

The problem enters when a congregation believes Sam Seminarian is equipped to lead their church merely because he has a degree. The congregation should be concerned whether Sam is well-trained (able to rightly divide the word of truth). However, they should be even more concerned as to whether the elders at the last church he was a member of have laid their hands on him and blessed him to go.

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Training Pastors…and the Church

I was just encouraged by someone I respect very much to clarify what I am talking about in reference to my last post. It may appear to some that I am saying, “Away with the seminary!” I have heard people say this because of their desire to bring education back into the local church. But such a statement is hogwash. To denigrate the seminary for the sake of church-based education is to pit two necessary entities that God uses to build the Church.

As most of you already know, I am working on a PhD in Systematic Theology. It would be ridiculous for me to say the seminary is unnecessary. Unfortunately some have used such rhetoric in an effort to win applause – and not appear as competitors with the local church.

The seminary is an institution meant to serve the Church. When the seminary is used as a replacement for training that needs to take place in the church, it should be corrected. Too many of the students at seminary are disconnected from the local church. As a result, these folk become myopic in their vision of what ministry is. They substitute right parsing for right loving. Even those that are members of local churches are not pursuing opportunities to serve others in the church. In a sense they are biding their time until they are ready. When is that? The witness of the NT seems to be that those who are “ready” are those who have already been exercising gifts of ministry, not because they got a passing grade in syntax and grammar.

What I am arguing for is a tighter wedding between the seminary and the church. There need to be ways for the seminary to hold accountable those who are not members of local churches, and those who are not ministering in the local church.

What is more, many of the “classes” that are taken in seminary need to be re-located under the roof of the local church.

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Free Church Database

I came across a free church database system today. You can use it to track your church’s attendance, giving, etc. It actually looks like a it may be decent tool, and the “free” part is particularly good for smaller churches with the need, but not the finances. (My church bought a new database system a couple years ago, and we paid a ridiculous amount of money for something that probably does about the same thing.)

If anybody puts this to use, drop us a comment and let us know if it’s any good – www.churchmetrics.com.

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Filed under Church, Resources, Technology