Category Archives: Ministry

Opposing Government Bureaucracy, But What About the Church?

12:13 PM Steve Scott’s latest essay is a real winner: Evangelicalism: Government Programs vs. Church Programs. Steve points out the irony that those Christians who want smaller and smaller government are often the same Christians who want more and bureaucracy in the church. In my book The Jesus Paradigm I referred to this as the “FDR-ing of the church.” Steve writes:

Continue reading Opposing Government Bureaucracy, But What About the Church?

A Primitive Ecclesiology

As you know, I’m involved in writing projects up to my eyeballs. One book I am currently writing is called Godworld. (I think I’ll subtitle it something like Enter at Your Own Risk). Over the past few days I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this topic. Emerson once noted in his Journal that “Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day.” For many years a considerable portion of my time has been devoted to the problem of ecclesiology. Being stubborn by nature and a professor by training and education, I hold to the notion that the status quo is rarely acceptable. John Wesley wanted his movement to recover the full message and power of what he called “the Primitive Church.” He was an ardent student of early Christianity. Wesley also studied the Anabaptist groups and the Moravians. Wesley and his followers knew that awakening interest in the church without bringing people to pursue Gospel living was a waste of time. When pre-Christian people talk about “church,” unfortunately they often refer to people whose alien language and jargon have nothing to do with the real world in which these same people live. Christians dress and act in abnormal ways. Their traditionalist churchianity is a language no one seems to understand. The New Testament, by way of contrast, calls Christians to “exegete” the culture that God entrusts to them and to indigenize their faith — witness the 18th century Methodists who wrote Christian hymns to be sung to the tunes people loved to sing in the public houses. As for missions, the New Testament calls all of us — clergy and laity alike — to live out our faith in our mundane professions. (Few are called to seminary!) We are to penetrate the culture for Christ and thus fulfill the second commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The love of which the New Testament speaks is not so much a feeling as a disposition of good will and service toward others, including people outside our own social networks, nationality, and race. We are to love others as God does. It is just as important that we love the lost as it is to believe that Jesus died for our sins. Growing into the likeness of Christ is essentially “downward mobility.” Because people matter to God, they matter to us. The goal is not mere conversion but bringing people to full devotion to Christ. Evangelism is therefore normative for God’s people. It is simply living and sharing the amazing good news about Jesus in one’s own sphere of influence. This is the process I want to be involved in. It is the process of entering this amazing Godworld — and doing so at our own risk! I want to be involved in this Godworld, not because I am a professor in a seminary, but simply because I am a follower of Jesus.

“Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day.” I would not pretend that I am yet consumed with a love for the lost as Jesus was. I have, however, begun to travel this downward path of Jesus. Just as all Christians have been joined to Christ and participate in His life, so all Christians are called to the ministry of witness and invitation.

Think about it.

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus ParadigmWhy Four Gospels? and the forthcoming Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?. Used by permission.)

The Standard of Obedience, not the Standard of Knowledge

6:50 AM Good morning, friends. You won’t believe this: A blog post called Jesus – A Practicing Socialist. I feel positively giggly. This is the message I’ve been trying to get across to my students for years. Note this paragraph:

But that is not what Christ is saying in the Great Commission. Jesus commands us to teach believers to observe – or DO – what He has commanded us to do. That is profoundly different than saying teach the great doctrines of the faith. The words “observe” and “command” indicate something much greater than just learning truths. They indicate a doing and an obedience to the commands of Jesus, not just a learning of what He said and what He taught. If knowing all the core doctrines of the faith is the indispensable element of being a disciple, then there were not many disciples until recently since millions of believers were illiterate and perhaps millions still are today. And none of His commands had anything to do with enhancing and elevating our own lives.

Continue reading The Standard of Obedience, not the Standard of Knowledge

Get the Focus Off the Externals

12:50 PM Do you remember the words of missionary martyr Jim Elliot?

We are “sideliners” — coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers. Oh that God would make us dangerous!

I thought of these words today when I read this comparison between being “imprisoned” by church traditions and literal imprisonment for the sake of Christ. As many of you know, I often travel to Asia, Africa, and the Middle East assisting the persecuted church. I have seen the suffering, up close and personal. As much as I deplore many of our unbiblical church traditions, I find the comparison unhelpful and inaccurate. Of course many of us feel trapped in our manmade traditions. And yes, we are called to suffer for the sake of Christ (Phil. 1:29). But the suffering of the persecuted church is, in my mind, in another category altogether, and I will continue to do whatever I can to make Americans who are cozy sitting in their padded pews (or on their living room sofas) as uncomfortable as possible about it. Not only do I make no apologies for it, I think that with every passing year it becomes more and more obvious to me that the most important thing we can be doing in our churches — regardless of our ecclesiology — is to get rid of our lukewarm insipid faith and take up the cross of self-discipline, suffering, and real sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel. If I have any prayer for the readers of my blog, it is that God will use it to help you take steps in this direction in your personal and congregational life. Jesus is calling all of us to a radical lifestyle lived from obedience that affects the world. With tears in my eyes, I say that as long as we are content to live out a religion of externals (home church versus institutional church, the Lord’s Supper as a full meal versus the Lord’s Supper as bread and cup, etc.), we will continue to miss the mark. Never in the history of the world has there been so much discussion about the church and Christianity but, I feel, so little real knowledge of God. Jesus made it clear that His mandate for each of us is to do the will of the Father by going into the fields just as the Father sent Him (John 4:34-38). This means that “missions” is not just one of several options for our churches. God is not asking us to give money to missions. He is asking us to make missions the central passion and thrust of our lives and congregations. When I think of your church, is that what I think of? Or of my church? Tragically, many of us have developed a church-first mentality that is distracting us from our main task. I should know, because I have been the chief of sinners in this regard.

There is a way out of this mess. New Testament Christianity is not reserved only for super saints who are doing all the “right” things church-wise. It is for every believer, whatever your church structure, whatever your location or occupation, whatever your circumstances in life. Jesus wants to live His life through us in the world. The only question is: Will we let Him? Our problem today is that we want it all, and we want it now. But we have to choose our priorities. Yes, I will continue to call us back to the Scriptures as far as church life is concerned. But my constant prayer is that God will help me to do it with a broken heart and with a renewed willingness to make a deliberate calculation to accept sacrifice and suffering for the sake of following Christ.

For more on this subject, see my essay Paper Perfect Churches.

(HT: Threads)

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus ParadigmWhy Four Gospels? and the forthcoming Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?. Used by permission.)

Reading for a Church Leadership Workshop

11:02 AM On Dec. 4 I will be holding a church leadership workshop in Durham, NC. I thought you might be interested in the reading assignments that must be completed prior to the workshop. If you are interested in the topic, you might want to take a look at them yourself. You can print out the list and check off the boxes as you complete your reading.

□ The Book of Acts.

Essays by Alan Knox:

1. Elders (Part 1) – Introduction Continue reading Reading for a Church Leadership Workshop

Missional Task is the Basis of Christian Unity

8:42 AM Hello Internet friends,

Some of you who have been reading this site for a while may recall that I’ve been working on a new book called Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? My desire is to reflect accurately what Scripture teaches in the area of associating with non-Christians and their world. I’m not especially concerned with our hallowed manmade traditions of doing missions. I feel like I’ve hit on some insights that provide a framework that allows me to combine the twin foci of unity and missions that we see throughout the New Testament. So if you’ll bear with me, I think I’ll introduce you to a few quotes from the forthcoming book. For starters, here’s something to chew on:

Jesus’ disciples enjoyed community simply because Jesus and not a set of dogmas was at the center of their life. They never tried to “build community.” They didn’t have to. Community was the result of being united in the Christian mission; community emerged naturally when they committed themselves to something bigger than themselves. And so it is in the church today. It is my personal observation that most Christians begin to enjoy genuine community only when they begin to serve the poor, evangelize the lost, and plant churches. The glue that unites them is the missional task of loving their neighbors. A shared sense of mission drives them to community. Their congregations are mission-shaped. Like Jesus, they literally go. For them the Bible, not tradition, is normative, and they hold themselves accountable to each other in love even while they work closely with the surrounding neighborhood, developing strong links between Christians and not-yet Christians.

I think it’s very clear that the New Testament affirms Christian mission as the basis for our unity in the Body of Christ. I feel compelled, out of fidelity to Jesus, to repudiate the notion that cooperation is impossible on a practical level. I’ll leave you with this teaser thought: Jesus prayed for our unity in John 17. Can Jesus pray a prayer and it not be answered?

Enjoy the Lord’s Day!

Dave

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian ArchyThe Jesus Paradigm, Why Four Gospels?, and the forthcoming book Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions. Used by permission.)

Equipping is not Delegating

7:55 AM Equipping is not delegating. Think about it. Pastors who think they are equipping may only be delegating.

  • They enlist the help of other members but only to assist them do their own ministry.
  • They focus their training not on lay ministers but on pastors-in-the-making. (Think pastoral internships.)
  • They regularly express from the pulpit their hope that some members will hear the “call of God” to go to seminary and enter “fulltime Christian ministry.”

Continue reading Equipping is not Delegating