Lew Ayotte Reviews The Jesus Paradigm

Find his review here.  His conclusion:

I found it hard to disagree with much of what Dr. Black wrote. He was a little more upfront than most people will like, but I think the timing is appropriate. I am the first one to admit that I am the worst at following Jesus’ example… or The Jesus Paradigm. But I am thankful that Jesus forgives me for that very shortcoming and is always by my side to help me follow him down that narrow path.

Lew also provides a summary of each chapter.  His review will be useful to people who want to know what they will get if they buy this book.

How Can Churches Promote the Christ-Centered Life?

How can churches promote the Christ-centered life? Christ is our first priority! He must be central. In everything He must have the preeminence (Col. 1:18). His presence, purpose, and power must pervade everything.

What will enhance His preeminence?

Some time ago I began a list of ways I feel we can help our local churches become more consistent with the Scripture’s emphasis upon the supremacy of Christ. If we take Col. 1:18 seriously, its ramifications in any local church will become creative and exciting. But we must be willing to follow the Scriptures into the nitty-gritty, day-by-day workings of our churches. Rigid, harsh, legalistic measures have no place in this process. But perhaps there are some practical steps we can take as the Holy Spirit leads us.

1) Work to implement a biblical pattern of plural eldership.

2) Acknowledge Jesus as your church’s only “Senior Pastor” (1 Pet. 5:4).

3) Substitute the name “Jesus Christ” for your pastor’s name on your church’s marquee.

4) Begin calling each other “brother” and “sister” in accordance with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 23. This includes leadership.

5) Follow Paul’s injunction in 1 Cor. 14 and allow several people to teach during the assembly while others weigh their teaching. This can be accomplished even if you retain the traditional homily/monologue by allowing others to have a “word” either before or after the sermon.

6) Encourage the priesthood of all believers by allowing greater participation in your gatherings.

7) Observe the Lord’s Supper regularly (weekly if possible) as a full meal in which you celebrate the presence and soon return of Jesus. Remember, many evangelicals are converting to Catholicism and the Orthodox Church today partly because they have grown weary of the anthropocentricity of the typical evangelical church, where the pastor is central.

8) Leaders can avoid giving the impression that they are “above” or “apart from” the congregation by speaking from the floor (instead of from the platform) and by foregoing the use of a pulpit.

9) Put missions first in all you do. Your church can’t come first. If you’re occupied with its life and function, you’ll think inwardly. What sets a true evangelical church apart is its commitment to the Gospel.

10) Accordingly, adjust your church budget to reflect a commitment to outreach rather than inreach. No more of the mindset of “God bless us four and no more”! In prayer, in strategy, in cooperation — become intentional about reaching out. We do this by working in social concern within our communities, by planting new churches, by encouraging sister churches, by eating and drinking with the lost and even attending their parties (as Jesus did). We do this by folding the new lambs into the flock. We do this by growing through world missions and by developing a plan to infiltrate and influence it for Jesus Christ. We do this by keeping the Great Commission before the people both in knowledge and in practice. We do this by supporting missionaries — not just those sent out by a denominational board but real flesh-and-blood church members. Elders themselves must lead by giving and going. Let your church reach and reach and reach — in all directions!

11) Teach your people that every Christian is a minister and a missionary and that all of us together are necessary if the Body of Christ is to grow. Then, as the bond of love with Christ and others is secured, we can go out into the world and do great exploits for God.

Church of Jesus Christ, it is absolutely essential that we raise up a generation of leadership that has a biblical philosophy of ministry. This is my goal in all my teaching. Please pray for me and my students, that together we might major on the time-honored, Spirit-ordained, scriptural basics of Christianity!

From Dave Black Online.

Faith Communities and the Government

President Obama realizes he needs the support of the faith communities if he is to pass major health care reform. This is the gist of an essay published recently in the Washington Examiner,

One thing seems clear to me: the president will continue the Bush policy of using religion to bolster his policies. This includes holding prayer meetings, supporting faith-based initiatives, and seeking the support of leading evangelicals. If you look at American history, you will see that the church bore most of the responsibility for social welfare prior to the 1930s. After the Great Depression, the U.S. government stepped in to relieve the burden. Some argue that this was necessary, that the church was simply too overwhelmed to carry the load any longer. There is some truth in that assertion. But the real problem, it seems to me, is that the church has failed to live up to its calling. Is it really too late for the church to reclaim its earlier social responsibilities? Sadly, the answer is probably yes, unless Christians of all denominations repent of our materialism and misplaced priorities (our giant salaries, lavish sanctuaries, etc.). One often hears that the Bible contains over 2,000 references to the poor. But these references are to the believer’s responsibility, not the government’s. Fidelity to the Scriptures would seem to require evangelicals to expend more effort working to alleviate the grave social needs of our nation by spending less on ourselves. Here’s an essay about one church’s efforts at doing just that.

In my forthcoming book, Christian Archy, I state the issue this way:

It all boils down to priorities. And there is absolutely no reason why our priorities should not change. We must ask ourselves, “How would God have us use the resources He has given us to have the greatest possible impact on the kingdom?” In practical terms, this might mean using the Bible instead of quarterlies in our Sunday School classes. It could mean renting a facility to meet in rather than building an expensive sanctuary. It will certainly mean using all of our resources with a sense of global responsibility. As Paul said, stewardship requires us to ask how we can use the resources God has entrusted to us more equitably (see 2 Cor. 8:13-15). Each of us must examine our lifestyles for wasted resources that could be invested in the kingdom. We must become better stewards of our time, budgets, homes, and physical recourses.

This readjustment process does not mean falling into the trap of legalism. It does not mean establishing additional “programs.” It is the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, who must be at work so that we may see what the church must become as it emerges from its cocoon and into ministry in the world.

The Quest to Find Jesus

From Dave Black Online:

At the heart of my journey has been my personal quest to find Jesus. Not the Jesus of my childhood, neatly compressed into a glossy magazine. Nor the Jesus of my academic research — an analyzable datum of objective linguistic investigation. Not even the Jesus of Southern churchianity — a fossilized relic deeply embedded in literary limestone and hidden from sight by the attendance boards and manger scenes so visibly on display in our sanctuaries. Recently, some scholars have sought Jesus in social convention — a Mr. Nice Guy who models societal decorum for our children. Others see nothing but the Jesus of politics — either the political revolutionary or the societal transformer who eagerly uses our tax dollars for spiritual causes. Oddly, I found Jesus in none of these places. The Jesus I know and love is found in the Scriptures about Him, the Gospels themselves. Here I find the most beautiful life that was ever lived, a life devoted to placing the needs of others over His own needs, a life willing to go all the way down to wash the feet of outsiders and sinners. This Jesus said of Himself that He did not come to be served but to serve. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He is the Model Missionary. And it is like Him I am seeking to become.

Too Hot to Handle?

From Dave Black Online:

Alan Knox hits it out of the ball park with his latest essay: In Theory. His point? What good is Bible study if we fail to put into practice what we know to be true? This is one of the main issues I deal with in The Jesus Paradigm, and it is why I spent a whole chapter on the Anabaptists. Among other things, these sixteenth century radicals believed in “biblical authority instead of ecclesiastical tradition,” “the Bible as a book of the church instead of as a book of scholars,” and “a hermeneutic of obedience instead of a hermeneutic of knowledge.” For them, the Bible, not tradition, provided the patterns for church life and organization just as plainly as it revealed the basic theological content of the faith. That belief earned for them the implacable hatred of the church hierarchy.

I conclude chapter 2 of The Jesus Paradigm with these words:

There can no longer be any doubt that our churches have departed from biblical norms. Could it be that we lack the prime essential for discipleship — a personal commitment to the lordship of Christ? I ask myself: Where are the young and women of today’s generation who are determined to stand upon Scripture alone, who are resolved to live by it, and who are committed to obeying it in their lives, their families, and their churches? I venture to say that the twenty-first century church is at a vital crossroads. If we should dare to submit ourselves anew to the full biblical witness to Christ and his church, I believe that the most significant renewal movement in the history of the church may yet await us.

Our problem is not one of knowledge but of obedience. The Paul of 1 Corinthians 14 has proven to be too hot to handle, too radical for the established church.

Note: Posts here from Dave Black Online are used by permission.  Thanks!

Bonhoeffer – The Church Should Give Away All Its Property

From Dave Black Online:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

The Church is the Church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it would give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The Church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.