I’m quickly becoming a fan of the writings of Carey Nieuwhof on church leadership. He writes very much in the manner of Thom Rainer, but he writes as the pastor of a megachurch (Connexus Church, north of Toronto Canada).
He recently explained why so many churches have trouble growing beyond 200 members:
The pastoral care model most seminaries teach and most congregations embrace creates false and unsustainable expectations.
Consequently, almost everyone gets hurt in the process.
The pastor is frustrated that he or she can’t keep up. And the congregation is frustrated over the same thing.
Eventually the pastor burns out or leaves and the church shrinks back to a smaller number. If a new pastor arrives who also happens to be good at pastoral care, the pattern simply repeats itself: growth, frustration, burnout, exit.
It’s ironic. They very thing you’re great at (pastoral care) eventually causes your exit when you can no longer keep up. Continue reading
For those of us with a restorationist bent, the idea that there was but one congregation in a given city during New Testament times is a disturbing conclusion, because the Churches of Christ operate in ways that are very contrary to this pattern.
And while we could argue whether this is a “binding” example, we should first perhaps ponder the wisdom of the arrangement, especially in light of how much a modern city differs from a First Century city.
So what might be some objections to such an arrangement? Continue reading
Start with “If the Devil Knows Your Name.” Think Civil Wars with a rock guitar.
Ephesian elders and the Jerusalem church
Now, consider Paul’s speech to the elders at Ephesus –
(Act 20:17-21 NAS) 17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
He was addressing the elders of a single “church” (v. 17). And yet Paul had taught “house to house” (v. 20). “House to house” translates kat’ oikous — “according to houses” or “distributed to houses.” The church meeting “in” a house meets kat’ oikon (according to or as distributed to a house). Continue reading
Read this brief post from Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed. (Taken down without explanation after I posted.) Then read the full text of the Vatican’s statement. (It’s a little verbose, which is the nature of rationalization).
The position paper is from a Vatican committee and not signed by the Pope himself. But its issuance through official Vatican channels makes it clearly a statement of the Pope’s own position.
Among other things, the document says (emphasis mine),
In spite of the historical breach and the painful conflicts arising from it, the Church remains conscious of its enduring continuity with Israel. Judaism is not to be considered simply as another religion; the Jews are instead our “elder brothers” (Saint Pope John Paul II), our “fathers in faith” (Benedict XVI). …
From the Christian confession that there can be only one path to salvation, however, it does not in any way follow that the Jews are excluded from God’s salvation because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God. …
That the Jews are participants in God’s salvation is theologically unquestionable, but how that can be possible without confessing Christ explicitly, is and remains an unfathomable divine mystery. … Continue reading
In the NT, ekklēsia is used in two senses: the church-universal and the local congregation. These parallel the use of ekklēsia in the OT to refer to all of Israel gathered at Mt. Sinai or in Jerusalem for worship, the reading of the Law, or the like, or to refer to those Jews who live in a particular city, as in Ezra and Nehemiah.
When Jerusalem and the Temple were being rebuilt under the leadership of these men, most Jews remained in Babylon or otherwise scattered across the Ancient Near East. Even during Jesus’s day, more Jews lived outside of Judea than in Judea — and yet the Jews called to meet with their leaders were the ekklēsia.
Where we miss an important turn is our tendency to equate a modern congregation with the First Century notion of a city’s ekklēsia. You see, in the First Century, there was only one ekklēsia or congregation per city. This fact is often obscured by translations that speak of a “congregation” or “church” that meets in someone’s house. Recent Greek studies reveal that these passages are actually speaking of the part of the church that met in a given house. Continue reading
(1 Cor. 6:1-3 ESV) When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!
Really? We’re to judge angels? Us? Continue reading
Back in 2000, I wrote a book on divorce and remarriage, But If You Do Marry … . I have just gone through and updated it a bit. It’s not a major rewrite, but after 15 years, it was time to freshen it up a bit.
It’s a free download.
Is Job the best answer?
Don’t misunderstand me…I am not opposed to seemingly unjust or terrible suffering, just so long as there is a good explanation for it and so long as God is willing to deliver all from it who cry out to Him. But that is not what we get from the scriptures and God does not deliver all (or even many) from evil. The best answer we get from scriptures is in Job where God asks Job “What do you know, after all?” My word – Job lost all ten of his children, his wealth, his friends and his health – all (according to God) – without just reason. It just seems God did not grasp how much Job suffered (having never suffered like that Himself as a human being) and was unwilling to share the reason for it (unlike how He answers the “complaint” of an angel in Zechariah 1:13), like He is saying “How dare you question why I allowed you to be brutally savaged by a fallen angel against whom you have no power to withstand?”. Might is not a good explanation for right.
As I think I’ve shown, I don’t take Job to be the “best” answer. It’s AN answer, but plenty more are offered. In fact, I now realized that I missed one — Continue reading
Continuing my fascinating conversation with reader Christopher in the comments. I quote the entirety of Christopher’s comment in the text of my reply.
I very much appreciate Christopher’s questions. Like all good questions, he’s pushed me to think about some very difficult things — important things that we don’t often hear about from our pulpits because … well … these are really hard questions. And those are the very best kind.
You’re putting me to the test! Let’s see … Continue reading