Notice how far we’ve come without having to speak about Five Acts of Worship, being Scripturally Organized, or even the Five-Step Plan of Salvation.
On the other hand, our basic theology here is thoroughly Trinitarian. Much has been said about God, Jesus, and the Spirit. None is an afterthought or a throw in. Each plays an essential role.
Moreover, while morality in the conventional sense hasn’t played a big role in our discussion, we have found the need for mankind to be transformed into the image of God
— which has huge ethical implications. And we find ourselves called to participate with God in his mission to extend the Kingdom to fill the earth — so that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
And we’ve seen that God’s justice and righteousness requires us to be concerned about the needs of others, especially the poor, the oppressed, and the powerless. Continue reading
God’s blood oath
I learned this lesson from Ray Vander Laan. I’ve even gotten to hear him teach it in person. And I know of no other theologian who places so much weight on this event.
But it seems that Paul makes God’s covenant with Abraham central to salvation by faith in Gal 3 and Rom 4. And if that’s so, then the ceremony by which God sealed that covenant has to be important, too.
For thousands of years, men have sealed covenants in blood. In the Middle East, they used to say that they “cut a covenant,” meaning the covenanting parties cut their arms and sucked a bit of one another’s blood. The mingling of blood was considered to bring the parties together so tightly they’d have to honor their words. Continue reading
Suffering to help us in our suffering
Hebrews has this surprising passage —
(Heb 5:7-10 ESV) In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
Jesus is God — God the Son — and yet the writer says that Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered.” How can God learn? And why does this matter? Well, it’s about the Spirit. You see, the Spirit is given to us to teach us how to obey. Continue reading
I should start with this confession: I don’t know much of anything about evangelism. I’m not good at it. I know people who are pretty good at it. And I’ve asked, them how they do it, and they give, what I’m sure are very good answers. But it doesn’t sink in to me.
I mean, they say things like, “It’s just about how much you love Jesus!” which, I’m sure, to them, makes perfect sense. To me, though, well, I think I love Jesus quite a lot, and yet my evangelism efforts are still pretty pitiful.
Part of the problem for me is that I live in a world where my contacts and friends are largely all committed to Jesus and a church. And I’m an introvert — which is true of most men and all bloggers.
And this is going to be true of most elders. In most churches, the elders are deeply spiritual men, beloved by their congregations, who have extensive connections within the church — meaning they aren’t connected outside the church — making them dreadful evangelists. It’s true. The same qualities that make them great elders make them lousy evangelists. Continue reading
So, if this is true, how does it work? How does someone enter the Kingdom? And how does the sacrifice of Jesus result in salvation for individuals?
Before we address how an individual enters the Kingdom, it would help to have some sense of how salvation happens. There are several theories taught by the theologians. They are largely not very satisfying. Continue reading
Alabama goes to a bowl game nearly every year, and the press always asks Coach Saban what he’s going to have the players work on during the weeks leading up to the big game.
Saban’s answer is always, “Blocking and tackling.” He explains that over the course of the season, the players tend to forget their fundamentals. They get so caught up in reading keys and remembering plays that they forget how to block and tackle. And the team that wins is usually the one that best blocks and tackles. The basics are the basics because they matter the most.
What are the basics of being a good church? What constitutes blocking and tackling when it comes to growing a church?
Obviously, you’re going to want to be doctrinally sound. But you knew that already. And you’re going to want to love each other. And you knew that, too. Those are like telling a football player, “You need to wear a uniform.” They should have learned that before they got on the team. No, what are the basics that we forget because we’re so used to being members rather than visitors? Continue reading
The greatest talent that God can give a church may well be the ability to recruit volunteers. If a church has a skilled recruiter, find him or her, take them to lunch, and pepper them with questions. Take notes. Learn from the experts.
I’ve done this. Here is what I learned —
- Recruit in person or by phone — not by emails, announcements, or sign up lists. Recruitment is, at its heart, a personal thing. People need the chance to ask questions, to have their fears assuaged, to feel recognized and appreciated, to be sold.
- Sell. In person or by phone. Explain why this is something the recruiter is passionate about so the potential volunteer can be passionate, too. What’s fun about this? Why is this really needed?
I recently mentioned my disagreement with the authors of Simple Church when it comes to Sunday Bible classes. I think Bible classes are essential toward discipleship. Not sufficient by any means, but essential. But I agree with the authors that church leaders need to work to simplify things for the members.
A church of a given size can only be truly passionate about so many things, and over time, churches tend to accumulate more than they can handle. As a result, members burn out, ministries are done poorly, and members get discouraged.
I once served as part of a committee that supervised the programs of the church, called the “ministries team.” We were fond of saying, “This is where good ideas come to die.” The goal wasn’t to approve good ideas, but to approve only the best ideas and to kill programs that didn’t measure up.
It’s more art than science, but it’s a necessary art for a successful, growing church. And someone has to be willing to play bad guy and say “no” to good ideas that aren’t the best.
It helps if you have an understanding of what it takes for a church to take on a new ministry or project — or keep an existing ministry or project. Here are a few thoughts in that direction — Continue reading
Found this site on the recommendation of Matt Dabbs. Lots of bargains on Christian literature — including some popular titles, such as N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope.
Here are a few tips on how to revitalize Bible classes:
- Teaching is a gift from God. Not everyone has it. Don’t put someone in as a teacher who is not gifted to do so — even if this means having fewer classes. If your church doesn’t have enough gifted teachers, consider merging with another church. (And maybe God chose to gift some of your women members. And if that’s God’s decision, it’s his decision.) But don’t put an unqualified person in as a teacher. Nothing kills a class faster.
- Even gifted teachers need training. And I don’t know the best way to do this, but even poor training is better than no training. Some approaches are —
- Have a “master teacher” pre-teach each class to the teachers for a given quarter, perhaps the Wednesday night before the Sunday when the class is to be taught. This may be an actual class or it might be a discussion of the materials. It could be a group effort to prepare discussion questions.
- Have a master teacher rotate through the classes and take notes on how the teachers can do better.
- Survey the students and ask them how the teacher can improve his skills.
- Have a novice teacher team teach with an experienced teacher.