Advice to a New Elder: A Few Starting Points, Part 2

shepherd3Don’t overlook the ministers. Some elders (not at my church) look at the preacher and think, “I’m an elder and you’re not!” Bad idea. Yes, the church is supposed to be overseen by the elders and not the ministers, and no, we’re not supposed to turn it all over to the “pastor.” But if the elders don’t delegate, the church will never grow beyond an institution manageable by part-time volunteers. And that’s not very big. Delegate, but don’t abdicate.

The ministers have extensive training in ministry, which most elders don’t enjoy. They are full-time employees. And the reason they’re in ministry is they’re passionate for God and his mission. Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Compassion for Our Own

Eucharist-Mission1Christopher Wright next lists “compassion (respond to human need by loving service)” as an essential element of the church’s mission.

Now, this is easily shown true from the Torah, the prophets, and the NT. Jesus certainly demonstrated it in his ministry, and he taught it in his parables.

In modern church life, we tend to reduce this to the benevolence program, and figure that the key question is whether the church does benevolence at some minimally acceptable level. That is, while we see evangelism as what converted people should be all about, we see benevolence as merely a means to an end, that is, evangelism. We measure the effectiveness of our benevolence, not in terms of people helped, but baptisms.  Continue reading

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The Tall Pines: “If the Devil Knows You By Name”



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Advice to a New Elder: A Few Starting Points, Part 1

shepherd3Pray. We all sometimes get too busy to pray as we should, and this is always a mistake. Make the time.

There’s always one elder who just loves to stop the conversation and insist that everyone stop to pray. He’s right.

Keep your priorities straight. The family counselors make a point of telling husbands and wives that keeping their marriage healthy is more important than worrying with the kids. That is, you can’t be good parents unless you’re first good husbands and wives.

Just so, you can’t be a good elder without first being a good husband and father. It’s okay to miss an elders meeting to take care of family needs. Don’t let your family come to resent the time you spend on church matters. Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Evangelism, Part 2

Eucharist-Mission1In a later post, Mark Love adds to his thoughts on evangelism

So, one of the points I’ve tried to make in this series is that if you think the driving question of Scripture is, “how can an individuals be forgiven for their sins?”, then relationships with individuals tend to be instrumentalized. That is, others become prospects defined around an abstract identity, “sinner.” We become salespeople, who at some point, to be effective, must isolate the other in their status as sinner. … So, all we have then is the heaven/hell card. 

It’s true, and I confess that I’ve long felt uncomfortable with our traditional approaches to evangelism for this reason — going back to high school. This is not a Church of Christ problem. It’s a problem shared by all American Protestants, especially evangelicals but also Fundamentalists. We are Americans, and so we see the gospel as something to sell — and the lost as potential buyers. And the result is to dehumanize our relationships with non-Christians. And the Sermon on the Mount is all about not objectifying people. Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: Introduction

shepherd3I’ve been on leave of absence from the elders at my church for about 2 years. For health reasons. I’m doing better, but I’m still a long way from being able to carry on a full shepherding role.

A friend of mine is about to be ordained elder. Which is a great thing for the church. And so I’m going to repost some old articles about how to be an elder. I might even write a new one or two.

Now, notice carefully that I’m not going to tell you how to become an elder. I get that question a lot. The answer is: if you can’t figure out how to become an elder on your own, you don’t understand people and your church well enough to be an elder.  Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Evangelism, Part 1

Eucharist-Mission1When we say “mission,” most people think “evangelism” — which is not wrong. It’s just very badly incomplete and in desperate need of repair.

I’m hardly an expert, but I would like to share a little of my learning, for whatever it’s worth.

  1. Thompson is, I believe, quite correct to notice how evangelism is at best a very minor theme of scripture. The Great Commission is, of course, an important evangelism passage, but after it, there’s not much. Paul’s many epistles to churches he founded or planned to visit rarely speak of evangelism except indirectly. He doesn’t urge his readers to go tell their neighbors about Jesus. He urges them to live together as Jesus would have them live. Therefore, our most important evangelism is found in first being the church we’ve been called to be. We’ve got to live the Sermon on the Mount.
  2. On the other hand, I think the far more serious error is in imagining that the world will find Jesus all by itself, without sacrifice or cost by us.

Continue reading

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The Mission of the Church: Ancient-Future Assembly

Eucharist-Mission1We now move to a recent book from Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative.

Webber argues that the assembly should reflect how living today reflects our hope for eternity.

Not only does worship point to the culmination of all history in the new heavens and new earth, but it also shapes the ethical behavior of God’s people to reflect kingdom ethics here on earth. Consequently, the ethical life of the church is an eschatological witness to the world of how people should be living and how the world will be under the reign of God.

(pp. 65-66).

Amen. Webber criticizes modern trends — Continue reading

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“Believe” Bible class material from Zondervan

believeMy church is planning to begin teaching Zondervan’s Believe material this fall.

As I understand it, this is a follow up to the very successful The Story materials, which my church covered a couple of years ago. I know that many readers were able to offer input on how their churches taught The Story, and we wound up with a successful series thanks in part to that input.

So I’m wondering if anyone has taught or experienced the Believe materials? What are your plans/what did you do? What works? What mistakes should we avoid?

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The Mission of the Church: Calvin on Liturgy. (Yes, really. That Calvin.)


What is the message that the assembly should communicate to the members and to visitors? There are, of course, countless good things that one might teach, but what is the over-arching goal?

Sometimes we approach the assembly microscopically, that is, focusing on today’s lesson without thought to the lesson taught over the course of the years.

I’m persuaded that we’ve greatly erred in not communicating the Story as well as we should have. By the “Story” I mean the over-arching narrative of Scripture. It’s a true Story. Indeed, it’s Truth.

You see, if we fail to teach the Story, then all the other lessons become atomistic, separated truths that aren’t seen as part of the total Truth of God’s revelation. And so, we pick and choose the parts that seem relevant and ultimately decontextualize our preaching and our worship.

Hence, we might overly focus on the therapeutic lessons in the gospels. The preacher will be praised by the members who are struggling to cope with insecurity, low self-esteem, and depression, but it won’t be because they truly understand how they fit into God’s Story. They might in fact consider Jesus to have come to earth and died so that they could feel better about themselves — which is not really quite the point. Continue reading

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