Tag Archives: David Alan Black

Unity and Diversity

From Dave Black Online:

In theology class recently we discussed the seventeenth chapter of John’s Gospel. Let me outline what I said. (Much of what we discussed was based on an essay I wrote several years ago for a somewhat obscure journal called the Criswell Theological Review. The essay is titled “Structure and Style in John 17.” If you would like a copy, let me know.)

The church consists of people who know God personally through Jesus Christ. These people come from many different cultures and backgrounds. There are as diverse as diverse can be. Yet they are all one, united in the very same way that Jesus is united with His Father. What does this unity look like? This is a question to which scholars have given many different answers. What is absolutely certain is that unity does not mean uniformity. It has nothing whatsoever to do with bland sameness. It involves a unity of spirit, an identity of purpose, and a commitment to brotherly love. One evangelical scholar argues that the church is like a huge army marching under different regimental banners. It is not supremely important what regiment we belong to. What matters is that we all follow the commanding officer.

I resonate with this analogy. For many years now I have reenacted the American Civil War. Each regiment has its own customs, flags, esprit, and idiosyncrasies. Yet despite the fact that the army marches under many different flags, each regiment is expected to obey the commanding officer and work together as a unit.

As followers of Christ, we must never forget that Jesus came into the world to inaugurate the kingdom of God. In this kingdom, national and tribal allegiances are unimportant. They are superseded by our loyalty to our Commander-in-Chief. If, by a miracle, unity ever became a “first order” category in our Bible-believing, evangelical churches, evangelism might become our one overmastering passion. I am told that as a Baptist I must fight for Baptist distinctives. Some would go further. They would say that I am not to eat the Lord’s Supper with those who hold to “wrong doctrine” — pedobaptism, for example. How avidly we cling to our distinctives! But our supreme aim can NEVER be to exalt our own regiment. The Commander asks us to follow Him. And if we make that our aim, surely we will realize that the things that unite us in the kingdom are much more important than the things that divide us.

In a word, evangelicals are to be a people who are united for the Gospel. The kingdom of God transcends every manmade barrier we can erect — race, education, gender, color, background, nationality. Think of the leadership of the church in Antioch (Acts 13:1). They had a Cypriot (Barnabas), a dark-skinned man (Simeon “the black”), a North African (Lucius from Cyrene), an aristocrat (Manaen, a member of the Herodian family), and a Jew (Saul of Tarsus). What made their joint leadership possible? I dare say that the “fellowship of the Spirit” (Phil. 2:1) was more important to them than their obvious differences. That humble attitude paid handsomely. The congregation at Antioch became a missionary sending church, as every local church should be.

I believe that most churches today could do a great deal more to encourage this outlook. We can hold city-wide meetings with other congregations, or we can combine services with the church next door, or we can come together for prayer meetings. Perhaps this would help us catch a glimpse of the true catholicity of the church. It is necessary to emphasize that we must depend completely on the Holy Spirit if we are to achieve such unity. The Spirit was given to us, not to make us comfortable, but to make us missionaries. It was the Spirit who drove Paul and the other early missionaries to “struggle together in one soul for the faith of the Gospel” (Phil. 1:28). It is He who dismantles our pride and enables the lovely fruit of the Spirit to take root in our lives. This, I believe, is what Jesus prayed for in John 17 — a church whose fellowship was real and vibrant, and a church devoted to evangelism.

When the Spirit is freely welcomed among us again, who knows what the results might be?

P.S. I should note that I do not reenact the Civil War because I seek to glorify that war or any war for that matter. Quite the opposite. I seek to educate the public about what life was like in the encampments of the period.

David Alan Black is author of The Jesus Paradigm and the forthcoming book Christian Archy from Energion Publications along with 20 titles from other publishers.  This extract from his blog is used by permission.

About Patriarchy

From Dave Black Online:

Had a discussion recently with a student about patriarchy. I shared with him my concern that sometimes even biblically correct positions can be reduced to a dogmatic narrowness, formalism, and fundamentalism. And this of necessity leads to a kind of fascism. Sadly many Christians gravitate to such black-and-white thinking, glad to find someone who can tell them what to do, someone who will “protect” them from society. Patriarchy-ism is becoming a beacon of authority precisely because it speaks to our insecurities in a time of incoherence. But is that not a danger of any of our “movements,” including agrarianism? This, at least, is what I argue in my forthcoming Christian Archy.

David Alan Black is author of The Jesus Paradigm from Energion Publications.  Quotes from his blog are used here with his permission.

The Athens Perspective

From Dave Black Online:

Do you have the “Athens Perspective”? Here’s what I mean. When I first visited Greece in 1981, I couldn’t wait to see the archeological treasures of its great capital. The Areopagus, the Acropolis, the Parthenon — I felt like I had gone to heaven so enraptured was I with all these wonderful sites. But when Paul and his adventurous missionary company visited the city on his second missionary journey, all he saw were spiritual needs. Paul would never have considered himself a “radical,” yet he was one of the most radical men who ever lived. “Radical,” of course, means going to the root, and Paul plunged through all the layers of history, philosophy, and architecture to the root of mankind’s need.

Yesterday Alvin Reid told the story of how he and his son once toured the great cities of Europe. He set as his personal goal to share the love of Jesus with at least one person every day on the trip. I can just see Alvin talking about Jesus in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, striking up a conversation and then moving beyond the distracting loyalties to the core of man’s emptiness.

There is a radical reformation taking place in our day. Many of us are a part of it. We are tired of debating the virtues of the NIV over the ESV (or vice versa). We are tired of You Tubes criticizing a certain pastor because of the way he pronounces “logos.” It’s time to get back to the essentials, to dare to put the Gospel first and to allow the Lordship of Christ to unsettle our morose self-centeredness.

What happened to Paul in Athens is happening in my own heart. God is beginning to remove any interest in my heart to see the “great sites” of this world. I want to look at the world as God sees it and evaluate everything in life from an eternal perspective. I’m thankful to be part of a missional revolution — a reordering of priorities in the Body of Christ, a rethinking of presuppositions, a recommitment to conserve the essence of life as Jesus taught us to live it.

The Athens Perspective: You either have it or you don’t. We are to be the essentialists of our day. In fact, if all we see when we visit Athens are great buildings, there’s something dreadfully wrong.

David Alan Black is author of The Jesus Paradigm from Energion Publications.  Quotes from his blog are used here with his permission.

Paul on the Work of Ministry

From Dave Black Online:

Pastoral ministry is highly demanding. I constantly realize, however, that the burdens we assume are often self-imposed. Trying to move toward a more biblical view of work and ministry can be overwhelming. How biblically ignorant I can still be! It’s particularly hard when people’s expectations get in the way. So there is much room to rethink the wineskins.

What does Paul say about work and ministry? That’s the assignment for next week in our New Testament Theology class. As always, I’m doing the assignment myself. Here are the verses I’ve gathered for my own inductive study. I think they’ll help me get the big picture. I have already written them out in Greek but I’ll list them for you in English:

  • 1 Thess. 2:9: Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you.

  • 1 Thess. 4:11-12: Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

  • 1 Thess. 5:12-13: Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.

  • 1 Cor. 15:10: But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.

  • 2 Cor. 6:5: We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food.

  • 2 Cor. 11:27: I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

  • Eph. 4:28: If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.

  • 1 Cor. 9:1-8: Am I not as free as anyone else? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes? Isn’t it because of my work that you belong to the Lord? Even if others think I am not an apostle, I certainly am to you. You yourselves are proof that I am the Lord’s apostle. This is my answer to those who question my authority. Don’t we have the right to live in your homes and share your meals? Don’t we have the right to bring a Christian wife with us as the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers do, and as Peter does? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have to work to support ourselves? What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing? For the law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest. Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink? If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? But we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ.Don’t you realize that those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings. In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge. Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News! If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News.

  • 1 Tim. 5:17-18: Elders who do their work well should be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!”

  • Acts 20:33-35: “I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Wow! This is very convicting to me. It seems that the Gospel fares better against outright opposition than against our frivolous and slothful lifestyles. A Paul slaving away night and day to support himself while doing ministry is a laughingstock. I am all for unity but today “togetherness” seems mired up in “conformity.” Is the status quo worth maintaining when it comes to our work ethic? That’s the question we’ll be asking next Wednesday. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will guide our discussion.

Note:  Material from Dave Black Online is used by permission.  Dr. David Alan Black is author of The Jesus Paradigm.

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.

On Being a SENIOR Pastor

From Dave Black Online:

My reading in Acts has brought me to the end of Paul’s first missionary journey in Asia Minor. In this passage (Acts 13-14) I was struck dumbfounded by something I had never observed before.

Paul has preached in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, leaving behind a group of converts in each place — a few Jews, perhaps a few more proselytes, and a number of Gentiles. Now, at the end of his ministry there, the way lay open for him to return to Syrian Antioch via the Cilician Gates.

This famous mountain pass lay just to the north of his own home town of Tarsus, and he could expect a pleasant visit there on his way back to his headquarters in Syria. Everywhere he had gone on his first missionary journey he had encountered nothing but terrible dangers, and in Lystra he had even been stoned and left for dead.

Despite all these dangers, however, and without any thought for his personal safety or comport, Paul decided he would take the way he had come and revisit all the churches he had established in order to encourage the believers in the face of persecution. Note also something of greatest importance: Luke records that in every city Paul appointed “elders” to watch over and care for the small congregations in his absence (Acts 14:23).

This mention of elders moves me deeply. Paul went to a great deal of trouble to see that “elders” — not “pastors” — were appointed in every church. That the term is in the plural is also of importance. Finally, note the absence of any mention of a “head” elder or a “senior” leader in any of these congregations. I grieve today when I see such self-conscious titles as “senior pastor” on letterheads or email signatures. In my book The Jesus Paradigm I address this matter in great detail and even dare to suggest that the title “senior pastor” would be an affront to our Lord Jesus in light of what Peter wrote about Him in 1 Pet. 5:1-4. I also suggest that anyone with the title “senior pastor” ought to consider — if he feels he needs a title at all — to use the term “servant pastor” instead. Better yet, why not simply return to the pattern of Acts 14? Why not call our spiritual leaders what Luke called them in Acts? The answer can be nothing less than a slavish adherence to church tradition and ritual. Can you imagine Paul, after arriving back in Syrian Antioch, worn with toil and suffering after his first missionary journey, receiving a letter from the “senior pastor” of the church at Lystra and not being heartbroken?

If we’re going to say that we follow the example and teachings of the apostle Paul, then let’s be fair to him. I know many godly, good, exemplary pastors today who have yet to take this small step of radical obedience to their Master. Titles have no place in the kingdom of God. This is the clear teaching of Jesus and the example of the earliest churches in the New Testament.

Teaching Like Jesus

From Dave Black Online:

I’ve been teaching for some 33 years now. Still hard to believe. I’m finding that only when I am like Jesus can I be an effective teacher. He was gentle yet forceful when necessary. He could be tough or tender. His life perfectly blended grace and grit. He must have been an arresting communicator. The people of Nazareth were amazed at the graciousness of His speech (Luke 4:22). At all times He spoke with great authority (Matt. 7:29). He was a man of solid convictions. He spoke from personal knowledge (I can’t see Him using crib notes) in stark contrast to the teachers of His day. Although He had no formal rabbinical training, He showed no timidity or hesitation as to what He had to say.

Simple, charming, direct, authoritative — how attractive His teaching must have been! He’s my model of a great teacher. But here’s a question. What did He teach? That is, what was the substance of His teaching? The answer can only be the kingdom of God — men and women ruled over by God and thereby finding the real meaning of life. He came to bring God to us and us to God. Christianity is in its final and ultimate analysis the acceptance of God’s rule in our lives.

I’m trying to say that teachers have both a model and a method in Jesus. This was perhaps the most difficult thing for me to learn in my career as a professor. For many years most of my teaching was a pale shadow of the radical kingdom announced by Jesus. By the grace of God, I’m determined to change that. I’d appreciate your prayers — I’m not naive. I recognize this is spiritual warfare. I encourage all of us teachers to follow Jesus’ example in all that we do and say.

Politics and The Jesus Paradigm

From Dave Black Online:

I want to say a word about The Jesus Paradigm. Some reviewers have implied that it makes too much of politics for a book only about discipleship. Actually, the book is ALL about politics. I insist that politics is never enough and that the human problem is insoluble unless it be attacked on all fronts — the spiritual as well as the political and the economic — the whole point of the book being that the problem is too complex to be solved by political reforms. If you feel that something can be done along political lines and that it would be worth doing, that’s fine with me. But, alas, in view of what politicians and the voting public are like, hope must be mingled with a great deal of doubt. It seems to me that if we are to have better politics, we must also have a better philosophy. And the only philosophy I think worth defending is the ultimate anti-philosophy, radical Christianity. The hope of the world lies in people getting disgusted enough with politics to take the teachings of Jesus seriously and to begin serving their communities with Calvary-love.

Geoffrey Lentz Reviews The Jesus Paradigm

Link to review on GeoffreyLentz.com.

The church is set to undergo massive transformations in the coming years and decades. Many great authors have recently been describing desired and/or emerging models; David Alan Black is among them with his newest book, The Jesus Paradigm (Energion Publications, July 2009).  The basic premise of the book is that the church has lost sight of our purpose and has become weighed down with meetings, bureaucracy, and structure and has neglected our primary call to make disciples of all nations.