John Nugent’s Endangered Gospel: Introduction

endangered gospelJohn Nugent is professor of Old Testament at Great Lakes Christian College. I would consider him a neo-Anabaptist following in the footsteps of John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas.

His new book, Endangered Gospel: How Fixing the World is Killing the Church argues for a view of the Kingdom similar to that taken by Scot McKnight in Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church and James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World

It’s a an easy read and very persuasive. Nugent makes some arguments I made in the Mission of the Church series, but also adds some new ones — which I mostly agree with.  I think in a few places he over-argues his case, but his overall premise is sound. And it happens to be a question I’ve been wrestling with and looking for some additional guidance on, and I find Nugent very helpful, especially in his presentation of the purposes of the “powers” (which we’ll get to, Lord willing).

I’m not going to follow Nugent’s book very closely. But I do want to pass along his thinking, but I’m going to try to translate into Church of Christ terms. Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: Getting Started (Other Ministries and Programs; the Involvement Minister’s Real Job)

shepherd3In theory, all ministries of a church are important and all have the same issues as those ministries headed by a minister. But you wouldn’t have hired a full-time, salaried person to run the worship service or the teen program unless you’d decided that these are extremely important ministries.

The easy mistake to make is to assume that all other ministries are therefore less important. Some are. Some aren’t.

In a given church, adult education, small groups, spiritual formation, children’s ministry, campus ministry, or singles ministry may be just as important — or more so — despite being led by volunteers. And that’s okay — so long as you remember that these ministries are important and require the same attention as the minister-led programs.

That is, there’s a natural tendency to try to oversee the church’s ministries by overseeing the church’s ministers, but the ministers may only direct three or four out of literally dozens of mission-critical ministries. And as a result, the elders get caught up in coaching and dealing with the ministers while other equally important programs languish. Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: Getting Started (The Other Ministers)

shepherd3To me, the other ministers — the youth minister, worship minister, education minister, etc. — are critically important but not as important as the preacher. The way American churches do church, you can’t get around a bad fit in the pulpit.

But the other ministers will rarely be ideal, will often be very young, and will always need coaching.

You need to have a concrete, specific, written plan for who coaches whom. My preference is that the preacher serves as the coach for the other ministers (except in a very large church, where you might have an executive minister hired to do this). I mean, the preacher is there every day, most of the day. He’s in a position to truly mentor and coach the other guys. And because he’s in the elders’ meetings, he can see that the elders policies are known and followed. Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: Getting Started (A Preacher that Fits)

shepherd3I think of the church in terms of concentric circles. (Sorry: I majored in mathematics and Venn diagrams are hard-wired into me.)

The inner circle is the elders — together with the preacher. I think in just about any church, the preacher has to be treated much the same as an elder because the elders’ and preacher’s jobs overlap so much — and because both have responsibility for the entirety of the church.

You can’t have the preacher and the elders rowing in two different directions. CAN NOT. Therefore, either the preacher is a mere hireling, and must do exactly as he’s told, or else he’s part of the shepherding team. And I’ve seen churches try both models — and all models in between — and the closer the elders and the preacher are, the better things work. The congregation thus hears one message, sees one vision, and is being led in but one direction. (And wise preachers greatly prefer this arrangement. It’ll help you hire a good’un.) Continue reading

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The Afterlife, Lesson 9, 2 Peter 3 and Treasures in Heaven

heavenhellToday’s lesson is on destruction of the earth by fire described in 2 Pet 3 and Jesus’ promises of treasures in heaven.

Download here. Lesson 9: “August 7, 2016“.

Right click and select “Save Link As” to download. (If you left click, it will stream.)

Or stream here:


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Advice to a New Elder: Getting Started (Vulnerability)

shepherd3Having now spent a few weeks thinking about being an elder, while also posting a series on mission (which should be thought of as part of the eldering series), some things have kind of become clear.

First, churches can be successful for lots of reasons. Great preaching. A great teen program. Or just a really good location where lots of people are moving and looking for a church home. But being a healthy church only happens one way. Lots of successful churches are, at the core, unhealthy — and it catches up with them. So you need to start by deciding that you’re going to work to make your church healthy — even if it’s incredibly successful. Even if it’s already healthy. Because just like people, you can lose your health — and it’s much harder to get it back than it was to lose it.

Second, healthy churches have healthy elderships. The relationships among the elders are of critical importance — and if they’re messed up, the church suffers — and often will not know why. Continue reading

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Advice to a New Elder: The Political Church, Part 4 (Rom 14 & 1 Cor 8 – 10)

shepherd3There are circumstances where the elders should not lead a church to exercise the freedom that the church has in Christ. When there’s a choice between love and freedom, love wins.

Most good elders get this. Where we elders tend to err is in forgetting that this is not a permanent solution. Eventually, freedom should triumph in love. That is, while there are times that freedom and love conflict, the conflict should ultimately resolve. I mean, it should be the nature of love that we don’t want to take away someone else’s freedom and so we’ll make the effort needed to resolve the tension. Continue reading

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