Community Discipline 5: Party
I admit that “party” is not found in most Bible translations. But the concept is certainly there. We just don’t see it.
How did the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son deal with the return of his son?
(Lk. 15:22-25 ESV) 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.”
He had a feast of a fatted calf (in a culture where beef was a rare luxury), played music, and danced. <sarcasm font>Jesus, of course, is opposed to these things — and so why he used them to illustrate the behavior of YHWH, God of the Jews, is more than a little intriguing.</sarcasm font> Continue reading
Dealing with conflicts of interest is one area where business is generally more ethical than churches. Business law says that you can’t vote if you have a conflict — and the conflict has to be disclosed to the group and you may not participate in the deliberations on that topic.
A young man applied to be youth minister at my church. I had acted as his surrogate father at his wedding. He grew up in my house. And I recused myself. I refused to participate in any element of the hiring process. He didn’t get the job, which was a huge disappointment to me. But because I always recuse myself in such situations, he can’t blame me for not getting him the job he wanted (not that he would), and his mother can’t blame me for not bringing her son home.
This is not about being unwilling to face family and friends. It’s about doing the right thing — and no one should ever vote on a matter where he has a personal interest that might keep him from doing what’s best for the church — even if he’s willing to vote against his own best interests. Best to stay out of it so there’s no question and so you can assure the congregation of the integrity of the process. I’d leave the room when the topic comes up for discussion.
(And, no, the elders cannot give you permission to not recuse yourself. If you have any personal integrity at all, you recuse yourself on your own initiative, even if the other elders are telling you it’s not necessary. If you don’t recuse yourself, then you won’t be able to ask the other guys to recuse themselves when they should.) Continue reading
Truly excellent series of brief videos summarizing Bible themes and books. For example,
These videos present very sophisticated theology in easy-to-understand, brief segments. These would be excellent for Bible class or small group study.
For more information, click here. To download HD versions and study guides for free, click here. To donate, click here.
I am totally blown away by both the sophistication of the theology and the skill with which the lessons are taught. These would work for any age, middle school or up. But most adults will learn from any of these videos.
WARNING: Highly addictive material. Please do not operate heavy machinery or drive a car while watching.
PS — Even the one on Numbers is fascinating.
Many years ago — maybe even back in the 1960s — we used to talk about group dynamics. But I’ve not heard that term in a very long while.
Here’s the idea: people in groups act differently from people not in groups. And groups act differently depending on their size.
So this is actually a big deal if you’re an elder — because you are now part of a group. And that group will not act like you — or any other member. It will act like the group — and sometimes the group-ness will get in the way of doing the Lord’s work. And it can be incredibly frustrating unless you recognize why the group does what it does so the problems can be addressed.
This is actually an academic discipline, and materials are easily found via Google. The best resource for a church, in my opinion, is Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Buy it. Read it. Study it together with the other elders and the ministers. Then buy, read, and study Lencioni’s The Advantage.
The Advantage covers much more ground than The Five Dysfunctions, but don’t try to save money and time by skipping The Five Dysfunctions. The principles are so important to an eldership that you just have to read The Five Dysfunctions first. It’s an enjoyable, easy read and very true to biblical principles. And it will enlighten you about why teams work and don’t work. Mandatory reading. Continue reading
Community discipline 3: Eucharist
I’ll be uncharacteristically brief — having covered this before.
- Give your small groups permission to take the Lord’s Supper as part of their common meal — a love feast — as well as the congregational Lord’s Supper at the Sunday morning assembly. I personally guaranty you that Jesus won’t be offended that you remembered his sacrifice twice instead of just once. In fact, powerful things will happen if you do this. You might want to plan some assembly time for a testimony or two six months into the change.
- Take communion in a joint service with another congregation or congregations. “Love one another” is not bounded by your membership list. Every church in town should feel loved by you — and if you love them, you’ll want to eat with them. And if you want to eat with them, you’ll want to do so in the name of Jesus — which only naturally leads to the Eucharist.
Community discipline 4: Baptism Continue reading
By now it should be obvious that my talents don’t lie in the area of shepherding (in the traditional pastoral sense). But the series really needs a post on how to shepherd — and I’m the last person you should ask.
So I’ve asked other people — people who are good at this.
Here’s what I gather —
1. I believe we’re going to be judged most especially by how we treat the “least of these.” Different places and cultures have different “leasts.” In church, there are always what some call “extra-grace Christians” — people who are just harder to deal with than most people.
I make a point to greet and speak to stutterers, the mentally ill, the disabled, the very shy, people with Asperger’s Syndrome, and anyone else at church who is difficult to talk to. If they don’t want to talk back, I respect that. But I figure some of these folks haven’t met a friendly ear all week — and if church means anything, it’s a place where a stutterer will find the patience to be heard.
So I don’t know if that’s “shepherding,” but I think it’s important. And if someone with Asperger’s wants to talk about comic books for a few minutes at church, well, I can talk Fantastic Four or Batman however long I need to. Continue reading
What habits, practices, rituals, disciplines might we engage in to help us learn to love each other — in practice, not just theory. I mean, how do I learn to love the person in the pew next to me — and make sure that really happens time after time as people in this mobile age come and go?
Well, community disciplines have to be undertaken at the community level. Some are individual, but many are going to require that we do things together or through our leadership. No one person can make this happen.
For example, I would strongly suggest as rule 1:
- All members have a job in the local church — absent health or family circumstances that make it impossible.
Both new and experienced elders often get in trouble when they to counsel church members. There are some real dangers here that most are not sensitive to — because we do so little elder training.
I mean, elders are under tremendous pressure to become “shepherds,” which seems to imply counseling. And when a church member approaches an elder to request counseling, the elder is quite naturally flattered — and excited that he finally gets to do what elders are supposed to do. The trouble is, no one has trained the elders on how to counsel — or more to the point, how not to counsel.
1. Here’s the first rule: Being ordained an elder doesn’t make you an expert in counseling. Don’t try to be what real counselors spend years learning to be. Most professional counselors have masters degrees in counseling. Some have doctorates. And yet even they aren’t very good at their job until they’ve had years of experience. To get experience, professional counselors intern under experienced counselors — because you can only learn so much from a book.
Therefore, you are not a professional counselor. You are not qualified to treat difficult issues. On the other hand, you are a great spouse and great parent and maybe even a great money manager. You are likely very qualified to coach husbands and fathers on parenting, marriage, and money — very desperately needed coaching, by the way. Continue reading
Lesson 5, introducing Conditionalism and Edward Fudge’s The Fire that Consumes.
Download Lesson 5. Right click and select “Save Link As” to download. (If you left click, it will stream.)