Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Authority and Accountability
Following from the idea of a universal visible church, whereby each congregation has a necessary connection with other congregations, Presbyterians maintain that the visible church must be governed—not simply "advised"—beyond only the local, particular congregation. Proving this point effectively refutes congregationalism.The system has been much abused in recent years, but for these reasons and others, it remains the best.
Acts 15 is the standard text for Presbyterians on this matter. Acts 15:2 shows us that the elders of the Jerusalem church received Paul and Barnabas from Antioch to discuss matters of doctrine and practice. The elders in Antioch had "appointed" and sent Paul and Barnabas. Those who made the decisions at this Jerusalem council were apostles and elders (Acts 15:4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4). Non-ordained members of the church didn't have an official role at this council. Congregationalists wishing to argue against a Presbyterian interpretation of Acts 15 typically suggest that this meeting should not be taken as normative for the church since the apostles acted in a prophetic manner under supernatural guidance. But there are too many factors that prove the apostles functioned as ordinary ecclesiastical officers.
Why did the apostles even choose to discuss the matter if they received supernatural guidance on it? Why did the apostles debate the matter upon "grounds derived at once from God's providential dealings, and from statements contained in the Old Testament Scriptures," Cunningham argues, if they were under special prophetic illumination? The nature of the council's deliberation proves the "dogmatic and diatactical power of a court of the church," Guy Waters writes in the highly recommended How Jesus Runs the Church. The assembly resolved a doctrinal matter (Acts 15:24, 27), and the assembly exercised a power of order by telling other churches to refrain from certain practices (Acts 15:28-29). Acts 15 proves that doctrinal matters in one church or several churches have necessary implications for all churches in a binding manner because of the decisions of a higher court (Acts 15:22-23).
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
A contract is a temporary agreement between two human parties that lasts until it reaches its expiration date or one person decides to break its terms. But a covenant is a lasting commitment that people make to both each other and God, and which they have no right to step out of later just because they no longer like it.His concern about the breakdown in accountability in the Methodist church can be shared in all of the denominations and explains much of the reason for their loss of influence and general decline. And it should be noted that such accountability is not just between the church and its members, but in the higher bodies of the church as well. One need look no further than the scandals that have rocked the Catholic church to understand the importance of this accountability.
Covenant accountability is at the very heart of Methodist DNA. We were known for the intense, loving moral and spiritual accountability in our classes and bands.
I constantly hear how people do not want to be held accountability. Why is that? Maybe it is because the accountability we exercise glorifies the church and not God. Maybe it is because what we show accountability as having accomplished in our lives is not necessarily the good stuff. Maybe it is because we seek to hold them accountable without first placing ourselves into accountability.
I know I long for someone that we hold me accountable in a good, gentle and loving fashion.
Monday, September 15, 2014
A Bit Too Practical
- Decreasing frequency of attendance among church members.
- The growth of the "nones."
- The growth of the multi-site and multi-venue church.
- The Millennials' aversion to larger worship centers.
- Governmental agencies are increasingly unfriendly to church building plans.
- The shift in emphasis from the big worship event to an emphasis on groups.
- The desire to spend more on ministry and less on facilities.
I would argue that they should not be, but often are. The church is driven by God's guidance. Now, truly budgetary and demographic concerns must be consider when we seek God's guidance, they shape our understanding of the call we receive from the Lord, but they do not, cannot drive our decisions.
My reason for this is straightforward. If we allow those things to drive us, they become our goals. We are then reduced to chasing culture rather than defining it, and the church has thus given up it's place in our society. We seek to change culture, not conform to it.
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Friday, September 12, 2014
Where is holiness?
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 1 Peter 1:14-15In my dotage, I am coming to realize that being serious about your faith is not in the big things, but in the little. Paul says, "If you speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love you are a clanging gong." I can not help but paraphrase that to say, "If you avoid adultery but are still a jerk - God's not really glorified that much."
Maybe another way to look at it is this - avoiding the big sins makes you decent, but does in make you holy?
I want to be holy!
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Many people in ministry aspire to be the head pastors, the "cultural architects," the visionary leaders. You know, the starting quarterbacks. Some of us are in that position of top-level leadership. But a lot of us are assistant, youth, or family pastors. Or perhaps volunteers working a day job to stay afloat while giving our time at church. For those primed for the field, we chafe a bit. We are backups but we really wish we were starters. A lot of us feel that we are just biding our time until we get a chance to do what we feel like we are really called to do. Until then we feel like that leader who is above us is in our way.I think this is a good metaphor for much conflict that roils the church these days. Way too many leaders hide behind monikers like "change" to force through things for which consensus ought be built. Most people say that "Well, there are always a few malcontents," and that's true, but does there have to be? You see, leadership, particularly servant leadership, tries to minister to all. Who in the church asks what that malcontent needs to learn?
But isn't this actually a perversion of what it means to be a Christian leader? A Christian leader imitates Christ by giving themselves up for the sake of those around them. We are not called to increase our own power or influence. Our job is to live our calling faithfully — to ensure the flourishing of everyone the Lord brings into our lives.
The apostles were constantly frustrated by those that "diverted" Jesus. The woman that touched the hem of Jesus' garment was considered by the apostles as a distraction, but for Christ she became the point. The apostles tried to shoo away the small children while Christ, again, made them the point.
Not every pastor that steamrolls over a church does so for the sake of personal gain of power or influence. Many do it because they truly believe that the direction they are going is the only way to "save the church." But in doing so they neglect the most important lessons Christ taught. The Pharisees were often right on the law - and yet Christ condemned them. For Christians how we achieve our goals is as important as achieving them.
The mega church rocked by financial and sexual scandal does more damage than good.
Things are more complex than we want them to be.
change grace leadership style
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Related Tags: Remembering 9-11
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
It is basically a worship service where it’s ok to not be ok. I know they should all be like that and what not, but it is an opportunity through the liturgy to provide space for grief.That set me to thinking about how often in this modern age we ignore the bad news that makes us need the good news.
I am reminded of one of the principles of AA:
For those suffering from the disease of alcoholism it seems to be an almost universal truth that before things can get better, they have to get worse -- sometimes a lot worse.The church is in such a hurry to tell us the good news of Christ that we never take the time to explore our need for Christ. We are never allowed to "hit bottom." Christ is presented as the answer to what we perceive as our problem, but we never truly examine the actual problem nor its genuine consequences. Like the alcoholic that thinks his tough boss or cheating wife is the reason for his drinking, we are never confronted directly with our sinfulness - nor its consequences, grief being one of them. To truly find the right we need to come to lament the wrong in us. It needs to be examined.
They call it "hitting bottom"
This is, in fact, an appropriate use of time in the Sunday service.
Sunday services hitting bottom lament