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Archive for the ‘ekklesia’ Category

Simplicity

A brother just reminded me of Tozer’s words from his classic, The Pursuit of God:

Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is. rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all. If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now, as always, God reveals Himself to “babes” and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent.

Tozer always has a way of speaking into my life, no matter what condition or situation I’m in. Thanks brother for the much-needed reminder!

 

 

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Finally, under all the scrutiny and pressure, the reluctant and recalcitrant “leadership” of Willow Creek finally does the right thing. Perhaps it became inevitable, especially in light of the latest allegation.

First Steve Carter resigned.

Then came the long awaited wholesale wiping the slate clean.

Beth Allison Barr is dead on when she wrote:

For Christians who loudly proclaim the “priesthood of all believers” and that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” evangelicals are surprisingly quick to venerate pastors. Charismatic personalities and dynamic preaching—especially preaching that attracts thousands of new members—seems to make us forget that pastors are still frail humans.

And Mel Lawrenz offers 7 untruths that all leaders need to pay heed to, because “This teachable moment will not last long before we all move on with the busyness of our work. If this crisis is only seen as one man’s transgressions with women, the bigger picture will be missed.”

The time for megalomania-driven “ministry” and rampant idolizing of Christian celebrities must come to an end. If the Church does not repent and learn from this incident, then shame on all of us.

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Learn to Listen

Today’s reflection:

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For my summer time reading list, I finally got around to finishing Kevin Giles’ excellent study, The Trinity & Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God & the Contemporary Gender Debate (IVP, 2002). The author initially wrote the book in response to observing some evangelicals beginning to teach the eternal subordination of the Son in their formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity. It soon became apparent to him that what was at stake was a larger debate around theological methodology. Indeed, there has been a surge of interest recently on the theological interpretation of Scripture that has bearing on this matter.

In contemplating the theological issues, he realized that these same considerations were directly applicable to the current debate around the role of women in the church (and home).  Giles goes on to consider the hermeneutical challenges, specifically around changing historical-cultural contexts and how that impacts on our contemporary interpretation of texts. These interpretive considerations also allow Giles to discuss how Christians have understood the biblical teaching on slavery over the centuries.

It is a rich study that will is timely and rewarding—highly recommended.

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Burnout

The latest issue of 9Marks Journal deals with Pastoral Burnout and sadly, most of the articles, while helpful, are predictable. For example, in this article, the author is correct that nowhere in the NT is there anything to suggest that a local assembly of believers should be led by one man:

He’ll realize that he cannot care for the church alone—like a CEO—and so he’ll desire men who can do more than run his ministry mechanism. He’ll desire men who are shepherds with different gifts, viewpoints, and perspectives.

A plurality of elders is a natural conclusion for those who rightly understand the New Testament church and the role of pastoral ministry. But more than that, a plurality of elders is a biblical conclusion and expectation. …

A healthy congregation needs the care and oversight of more than one man, and a plurality of elders affords many particular benefits: better teaching, a broader congregational perspective, a variety of gifts in leadership, and accountability among leaders.

This is all good and fine as far as it goes. But the article seems to suggest that having a plurality of elders offers a (humanly) self-sufficient prevention against burnout. However, the apostle Paul acknowledged the help and encouragement from a diverse number of friends of various backgrounds. He did not hang out with just a “clerical clique”.

Dear pastors/elders: do you have close relationships with “regular Joes” in your congregation? Do you pray intimately with them and seek counsel from them? Or do you only seek out other pastors/elders? Some of the most encouraging help, wisdom and prayer I’ve received over the years have come from simple, ordinary brothers and sisters, young and old.

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Somewhere

We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.
– Orson Welles

Lately I’ve been unable to fight off this forlorn feeling of futility and forsakenness. God seems unreal and my friends seem so far away. That’s why I could not find the faith and fortitude to face my brothers and sisters these past 2 Sundays. Then I came across this:

All of us are hurting. All of us have our own stories of pain, and we’d be so much better off—all of us—if we’d just trust each other with a little honesty. …

And sometimes, it helps to just know you’re not on this journey by yourself. …

A lot of people work hard to put on a good face and keep up illusions that everything is fine. …

Church should be the one place you don’t have to pretend. Church should be the one place where it’s OK to say, “I’m having a bad day.”

Church should be the place where you can sit next to a friend and let them know you’re with them and that they’re going to be OK, and not have to use a lot of words. It should be a place where you can simply say, “I’ve been there too…”

Sometimes, all you need is to know you’re not alone. Church should be the place where you know that.

Bingo! I am tired of pretending and I’m tired of seeing other pretenders. Why can’t we remove our masks and be honest, open and vulnerable with each other? Surely I can’t be the only one who yearns for genuine relationships, who longs for the real thing?

I came across a fallen tree
I felt the branches of it looking at me
Is this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I’ve been dreaming of?

Oh, simple thing, where have you gone?
I’m getting old, and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you’re gonna let me in
I’m getting tired, and I need somewhere to begin

And if you have a minute, why don’t we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything
So why don’t we go
Somewhere only we know?

–Keane, Somewhere Only We Know

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Inexpressible

Lord, see how I am in distress.
I am churning within;
my heart is broken,
for I have been very rebellious.
Outside, the sword takes the children;
inside, there is death.

People have heard me groaning,
but there is no one to comfort me.

For my groans are many,
and I am sick at heart.

– Lamentations 1:20-22; CSB

In her fascinating talk, Language Failing: The Reach of Lament, Ilit Ferber begins thus:

The cry of lament emerges from the abyss of profound mourning and sorrow expressing the unbearable condition of loss. It is cried out in moments when the pain of loss overwhelms us with such an intensity that we seem utterly unable to express it in words. As if our language had completely broken down, revealing its inadequacy in the face of profound sorrow, by disintegrating into nonverbal exclamations and disconsolate cries. We usually think of lament as an anguished response to deep loss and sorrow expressed in primordial cries and shrieks bursting forth in a vast era of elegies and other poems, biblical lamentations, songs and music.

It brings to mind Paul’s epistle to the Romans, in a key section dealing with suffering, eschatological glory, and the Spirit:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groaningsAnd he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will. (Romans 8:26–27; NET; emphasis mine).

In the fallenness, frailty and finitude of our lives, profound sorrow is to be expected and primordial cries is the only language we have in response. However, as Christians, Paul reminds us that because of our union in Christ, we live our lives in the Spirit, who “intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings [στεναγμοῖς ἀλαλήτοις]”, so that despite our weakness [ἀσθενείᾳ]—our groanings, yearnings, laments are “translated” by the Spirit and brought before the Father’s throne, who responds to our groans according to His will (8:27).

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