Josh Garrels: “Hiding Place”

Somewhere out there
Can anybody hear my prayer
Save me

From this dark land
If I had wings
I would fly away from everything
That hurts me and tears me down

Is there a home for a mother and a child
In the world with no place left to hide
We will run though the way is dark and long
We will sing
You’re our hope, you are our song

Lord, take my hand
Lord, help me stand

Days are getting colder
I can see the soldiers marching up to burn us down
I take my mama’s right hand tears are on my face and
She says son it’s time to summon the courage and
Run for your life, child
Flee into the night while
We still have the chance to make it out here alive
Even though we walk through the valley of death you feel no evil
You will survive

Cuz there’s a home for a mother and a child
In this world, only one place left to hide
So we will run though the way is rough and long
And we will sing Alleluia to our God

Lord, you’ve overcome
Lord, lead us home
Lead us home

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The Mission of the Church: Leadership

Eucharist-Mission1Thompson has a fascinating chapter on church leadership. We don’t normally think of leadership as a missional topic, but Thompson makes the point that how we’re led is governed by the church’s mission. If we don’t get the connection, we miss some important understandings of congregational leadership.

Thompson first notes that Paul asserts a very high level of authority arising from his own apostleship —

As an apostle, [Paul] equates himself with the prophets. His claim that he has the authority to build and not to tear down (cf. 2 Cor. 10: 8) is reminiscent of Jeremiah’s appointment “to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jer. 1: 10) and God’s promise to “build them up, and not tear them down” (Jer. 24: 6). Thus Paul commands the church to expel a member who undermines its moral cohesiveness (1 Cor. 5: 2– 5) and has the apostolic authority to punish a disobedient church (1 Cor. 4: 14– 21; 2 Cor. 13: 1– 10). He speaks for God, and reconciliation to him is reconciliation with God (2 Cor. 6: 1– 2). Because instructions are nothing less than the will of God (1 Thess. 4: 3), to reject Paul’s commands is to reject God (1 Thess. 4: 8).

Thompson, James W.. The Church according to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed to Christ (p. 224). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: They Smell Like Sheep, Part 5 (What is “administration”?)

shepherd3But doesn’t the Bible say that elders should be shepherds rather than administrators?

No, it most certainly does not. In fact, administration is listed as a gift of the Spirit in 1 Cor 12, and leadership is a gift of the Spirit in Rom 12.

Ancient kings were referred to as shepherds of the people — and they also had very real administrative duties. The two are not inconsistent in biblical thought.

Consider such passages as —

(Heb. 13:17 ESV) 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

(1 Thess. 5:12 ESV)  We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,

“Are over you in the Lord and admonish you” and “obey … and submit” clearly imply very real positional authority (even if you prefer to translate “obey” as “lead”). Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Creation Care, Part 1 (The Old Testament)

Eucharist-Mission1If the mission of the church is to get people to heaven when they die, then the church has no reason to care for the Creation or human flourishing or abundant living (John 10:10) in general.

The scriptures don’t emphasize environmental concerns as much as you might expect, but then humans had much less ability to injure the environment in biblical times than they have now. It’s now very much within our power to completely destroy the planet, should we be so foolish. That wasn’t true 2,000 years ago.

But the doctrine of Creation Care is plainly revealed nonetheless. Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Justice, Part 7 (Conclusions)


Christian mission through the government

So we no longer live in the Constantinian world in which government works with the church to direct society, and no matter how many books you buy and read arguing that the US is a “Christian nation,” this is not going to change anytime soon. But we do live in a democracy in which the church and Christians have considerable influence.

I believe part of the church’s mission is to speak up for the weak and vulnerable of society, and the more voiceless the person, the more important it is that the church speak for them. This makes abortion a particularly important issue for the church, as the unborn have no voice at all. But orphans, widows, the poor, immigrants, and many others marginalized by society should expect the church to speak up for their legitimate needs.

This must alway be done (1) in the name of Jesus and (2) for the sake of others. This is not at all about making the United States a nicer place for Christians to live — an entirely selfish motivation. It’s about speaking up for others — who may be Christians or not.

Part of it is Jesus’ call for his followers to be perfect as his Father is perfect. Part of it is love. Continue reading

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The Afterlife: Lesson 3, focused on Isa 65-66 and 2 Cor 5:17 (June 26, 2016)

heavenhellI was out last week under the weather, and so this is class 3. We started in Isaiah and went from there to 2 Cor 5:17 and a few other passages.

Here’s the downloadable mp3:

June 26, 2016 Class 3 on the Afterlife

Here’s the streaming version:

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Advice to a New Elder: They Smell Like Sheep, Part 4

shepherd3I keep promising myself that I’m going to get to the They Smell Like Sheep part of the series — that is, pastoral care by elders. But not quite yet.

It remains true that most elders have far more work than they can manage, and so the pastoral part of the job gets postponed while countless personnel and other administrative emergencies get dealt with first.

I’ve presented one approach — the Ministries Team — that works in some settings — but not all. We need to consider a few alternatives.

Rule 1: Great churches are great because they tap into the giftedness they receive from the Spirit, not because of their glorious organizational charts. However, a bad organizational structure can frustrate the work of the Spirit in your church. Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Justice, Part 6 (Rom 13; John Howard Yoder)


Romans 13

(Rom. 13:1-6 ESV)  Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,  4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.  5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.  6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.

Paul declares that the government has been instituted by God to punish bad or wrong conduct. Indeed, the government’s punishment of these behaviors is a form of “God’s wrath” (vv. 4-5), which takes us back to chapter 1. Interestingly, Paul sees the pagan Roman government as an instrument of God’s wrath against sin — revealing the will of God to even pagans without special revelation (the Bible, prophecy, etc.)

Now, in Rom 1, God’s goal was to show the dehumanizing result of worshiping idols rather than God. God’s wrath is shown through the self-destructive behavior of godless people. But in Rom 13, God’s wrath is revealed by the punishment meted out against such behaviors by the government. That is, the fact that even a pagan government finds these behaviors criminal should point the world back toward God. Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: They Smell Like Sheep, Part 3

shepherd3We set up a Ministries Team a long time ago. We quickly learned several critical lessons the hard way.

1. The elders had trouble coordinating their work with the team’s. The elders were used to directly overseeing the church’s ministries. If they wanted to start a new adult class, they just did so.

The team had to meet with the elders to work things out. The elders decided they would not go around the team. The elders did not have to follow the team’s suggestions, but they had to hear the team’s thoughts before making a decision within the team’s charge. Otherwise, the team could not do its job.

2. The team struggled to do its job in the time allotted. One of the profound pleasures of the meetings was hearing from each member the victories God was giving their ministries. But the reports could take all afternoon, there was so much going on and people were so eager to learn what was going on. We had to set strict time limits.

3. Our eagerness to hear these reports told us that the rest of congregation was also starved for information about the work of the church’s ministries. We made a point of publishing very detailed minutes of the reports to the entire congregation so all could share in these celebrations. Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Justice, Part 5 (1 Cor 5:9-13 and Rom 1:18-26)


1 Cor 5:9-13

To my way of thinking, this passage is at the heart of the question, and I’m thankful to the readers for keeping me on my toes as I’ve tried to apply it to public policy questions in earlier posts.

(1 Cor. 5:9-13 ESV)  9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people —  10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.  11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler — not even to eat with such a one.  12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?  13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

The quotation in v. 13 is from several passages in Deuteronomy dealing with sentencing someone for a crime — generally dealing with death or “cutting off” — meaning either death or expulsion from the Israelite camp — which meant likely death in the desert (Deu 13:5, 17:7, 17:12, 19:19, 22:21, 22:22, 22:24, 24:7). Paul is quite severe in requiring the church to “judge” one of its members for incest (likely with his step-mother) and expel that person until he repents. Paul is using what we’d think of as courtroom language. Continue reading

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