Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Smoke Shack: A Model for Church Meetings

Many of you know that I work at JCB here in Savannah. JCB's smoking policy is fairly simple: if you choose to smoke, you have to do so at the one designated location outside the building. This "smoke shack" is little more than a metal overhang where the smokers congregate throughout the day.

Although I do not smoke, my specific job duties have me walk near the smoke shack several times per day. I can't stand the smell, but what I see fascinates me. The smokers have inadvertently found a good model for church meetings.

Those who smoke talk with each other, stand around, and share an activity: they smoke. Everyone gets to participate. Each person, regardless of specific job in the factory and offices, is on a level playing field at the smoke shack. Little is planned; conversation is spontaneous. All involved seem to be having a good time. No one is required to attend. Rather, they simply come when they want to. The smokers generally enjoy each other's company. Everyone is to some extent encouraged through the conversations.

The model I'm describing from the smoke shack also sounds like an excellent one for church gatherings. How absurd it is that regular folks know how to get together in a manner that encourages the group, but the church generally does not. Most churches believe that a special ceremony is needed to please God. This could not be more incorrect. God wants His church to gather to build up the church. This happens through free-flowing, spontaneous, Spirit-led get togethers.

Frankly, it looks a lot like what I see at the smoke shack.

Monday, October 20, 2014

If Sermons Were Edifying the Church Would be Much More Mature

Sermons are ubiquitous. Almost all institutional churches have some type of sermon during their large weekly meetings. The denomination, style, size, and location do not matter; some form of sermon, message, speech, or monologue will be present.

This is significant because it means that each week thousands upon thousands of sermons are preached around the globe. Simple math suggests that every year hundreds of thousands of sermons are delivered to/at the church worldwide.

Despite all these sermons, the church in general is not very mature. The body of Christ as a whole continues to struggle with many elementary issues that mature Christians should have dealt with long ago. Why is this the case? If sermons are edifying to the church, then in light of their frequency, the church should be very mature. So why is the church (at least in this country) generally failing to reach maturity in Christ?

The reason is simple, profound, and troubling: sermons are not edifying.

I'm not suggesting that all sermons are bad and that no one knows how to preach. Rather, I'm saying that the very act of monologue style proclamation to a quiet audience is in and of itself not edifying. No matter how good, entertaining, attention-grabbing, informative, and/or challenging the sermon is, it still fails to build up the body.

The reason for this is that lecture is not edifying. It is one of the poorest forms of teaching. And yet, sermon after sermon is delivered week after week after week. Why? Pastors need to earn their paychecks and tradition tells them to do so. The people in the pews are used to sitting and listening. Sermons go largely unchallenged because "we've always done it that way."

If sermons were actually edifying, the church would be much stronger, holier, and vibrant.

What the church needs is a different form of communication between members during gatherings. Edification occurs when all are free to speak as led by the Holy Spirit. When this happens the body can and will grow.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Series Summary: Old Testament Interpretive Problems Always Lead to Church Problems


The Bible is a wonderful book given to us by a wonderful God. It is, therefore, imperative that we interpret it correctly. When we fail to do so it frequently leads to all sorts of difficulties. In this particular blog series, I've discussed several of the church problems that stem specifically from poor interpretation of the Old Testament. Whenever the body of Christ attempts to apply Old Covenant principles and practices to New Covenant life, only bad things come of it. My hope is that the people of God as a whole will embrace our freedom in Christ and His plan for His church.

Click below to read any of the posts in this series:

Poor Interpretation of the Old Testament Always Leads to a Multitude of Church Problems
We Do Not Have to Follow the O.T. Law
Jesus Christ Fulfilled the Law. We Don't Have to, Nor Could We.
All of the O.T. is Not the O.T. Law
Genre, Genre, Genre
Abraham vs. Moses
No Mention of Sinai in Hebrews 11
Jesus Christ and the Tithe
We Do Not Have to Follow the 10 Commandments
We Are Free in Christ!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

We Are Free in Christ!



"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2

We are free from Adam's curse.

We are free from the wages of sin.

We are free from the Old Testament law.

We are free from Old Testament ceremonial requirements.

We are free from Old Testament models for community life.

We are free from the clergy-laity divide.

We are free to live as the priests to God that we are.

We are free to live joyfully for Jesus Christ.

We are free to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are free to be the New Covenant church God wants us to be.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

We Do Not Have to Follow the 10 Commandments

This post may seem a bit redundant to some of you. For that I apologize. However, I believe it needs to be stressed that as followers of Jesus Christ we do not have to follow the 10 Commandments.

This statement sounds like heresy to some. How can we call into question what God provided in stone to Moses? How can we ignore these basic biblical truths?

My answer is that I'm not calling them into question or ignoring them. Rather, what I'm saying is that they do not apply to those of the New Covenant.

The New Testament is clear that salvation comes through faith, not through law keeping. Jesus Christ fulfilled the law; we do not have to. The NT writers are united in their call to repent and believe, not repent and keep the law.

The 10 Commandments are part of the OT law. In fact, they are right at the heart of it. God's covenant with the nation of Israel at Sinai has the 10 Commandments at the center. When Jesus came and ushered in the New Covenant, the law no longer had any hold upon his followers. This logically includes the 10 Commandments.

The interesting thing in all this is that if we follow Jesus' teachings, we will end up keeping nine of the ten commandments. It is only the command to keep the Sabbath that we no longer have to follow (we actually keep a different kind of Sabbath - 24/7 rest in Jesus who is our Sabbath). The difference is that we do not obey Jesus' teachings in order to gain his approval. We already have his approval through faith. Rather, we keep them out of hearts full of joy in Christ. We keep them because we want to.

Jesus came to earth for numerous reasons, all of which were part of his mission of salvation. One aspect of this was perfectly fulfilling the OT law. This Christ did - the entire law. Because of this, none of the law's requirements rest upon us. This includes the 10 Commandments.

Our Lord has freed us to live by faith!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Jesus Christ and the Tithe



Continuing in this series on Old Testament interpretive problems, we now come to one of the largest, most ubiquitous, and most disturbing: the tithe.

We've probably all attended worship services of one type or another where the pastor has spoken on the supposed importance of the tithe. Most of the time the audience is made to feel guilty (see above comic), being told that if they don't give 10% (before taxes no less) to the church then they are in sin. Ouch. But is this accurate? What did Jesus say to his followers about the tithe? Did he want them to give 10%? And by extension, does Christ expect us to give the same?

(As an aside, in the OT the tithe often came out to significantly more than 10%. The 10% figure is just a simplistic one that many in the church like to use today because it is simple.)

So, do we have to tithe? The answer is NO. Jesus does not expect us to give 10%. The tithe is an Old Covenant concept. It dealt mainly with giving of agricultural items for support of the temple. It never focused on money. Only those under the OT law had to follow it.

Nowhere are any New Covenant people told to pay the tithe. Jesus never instructs his followers to pay the tithe. None of the writers of the New Testament tell Christ's followers to pay the tithe. As we read through the NT, we never see believers paying the tithe.

But what about Matthew 23:23-24? It says:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

The key to the above passage is who Jesus is talking to: pharisees. They are part of the Old Covenant, and by extension still under the law. They are hardly Christ's followers. Additionally, note that Jesus mentions mint and dill and cumin, not money. Finally, Jesus' emphasis is actually what they are neglecting: justice and mercy and faithfulness.

What, then, are we to give? Paul tells us in II Corinthians 9:6-8:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Part of living by faith is giving as the Holy Spirit leads. This will differ from person to person and situation to situation. They key is that we take care of one another in the body of Christ, and that we help the poor as given the opportunity.

To sum up, we do not have to follow the practice of OT tithing. It has no bearing upon our lives. Those who say it does are interpreting the Old Testament extremely poorly; this continues to be a scourge upon the church today.

Give generously, give joyfully, and give freely! This is what it is to live in the Spirit!


To read a short, excellent book on tithing from a Christian perspective, click here.

To visit a website that deals with this topic in much detail, click here.

To read a silly comic, look below:



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

No Mention of Sinai in Hebrews 11

Hebrews chapter 11 is sometimes referred to as the "Faith Hall of Fame." It provides us with a list of many Old Testament heroes along with their exploits. These saints likely make up the "so great a cloud of witnesses" recorded in Hebrews 12:1-2.

Abraham, the man of faith, is mentioned more than anyone else in Hebrews 11. Much of Abraham's life is contained in this chapter. Moses, the lawgiver, is also spoken of in Hebrews 11. What is fascinating is what aspects of Moses' life are recorded in chapter 11 and what are not.

Hebrews 11:23-29 focuses on the life of Moses. These verses tell us:

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. 29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.

The author of Hebrews focuses on acts of faith in the life of Moses. Notice where the verses conclude: at the crossing of the Red Sea. This is before the Sinai account, which by all measures is one of the most significant passages in the entire Old Testament. Surely we must hear some mention of Sinai. But no, we do not. Rather, Hebrews 11:30 says, "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days." The writer skips all the way from the crossing of the Red Sea to the fall of Jericho. In his focus on faith, the writer jumps completely past the events of Mt. Sinai.

Why would the writer do this? The answer is both simple and profound. The Sinai account focuses on the giving of the law. It has nothing to do with faith, which is what Hebrews 11 is all about.

Law keeping and living by faith do not mix. They are completely different things.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we live by faith. The law, which we see ignored in Hebrews 11, has no hold upon us. Since that is the case, we need pay the law no heed as we consider how to live today. Many church problems stem directly from trying to look to the OT law for direction. This is fruitless. Rather, let us look to New Covenant passages to inform how we live life together now.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Abraham vs. Moses

I have no doubt that both Abraham and Moses are in heaven with God right now. Despite their faults, they both showed themselves to be faithful followers of the Lord.

When we read through the Old Testament, we see an interesting contrast between Abraham and Moses. While Abraham is portrayed as a sort of ideal man of faith, Moses is described as the lawgiver. Faith versus law.

In Genesis chapter fifteen, Abraham was declared righteous by God due to his faith: "And he brought him outside and said, 'Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.' Then he said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.' And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness" (Gen. 15:5-6). Take note that Abraham's faith, not his works, led to God declaring him righteous. Abraham's greatest act of obedience (his willingness to sacrifice Isaac) came long after Genesis fifteen.

Meanwhile, Moses the lawgiver is not allowed into the promised land because of his lack of faith. In Numbers chapter twenty, the children of Israel again complain about not having water. God instructs Moses to tell the rock to yield its water (20:8). However, in 20:11 Moses does not tell the rock but rather strikes it. In response to this God says, "Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them" (Num. 20:12). God did not block Moses' entrance into the promised land due to his disobedience; rather, it was because "you did not believe in me." It showed a lack of faith on Moses' part.

Turning to the New Testament, Paul spells out for us that Abraham was righteous because of his faith. In Romans 4:1-5 we read the following:

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.

It is the faith of Abraham that God desires in us. In contrast, it is not the lawkeeping of Moses.

In light of this, why do so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ turn back to the OT law for church life? It is the Spirit who gives life, not the law. For those of us in the New Covenant, the law no longer has any power. To turn back to it makes no sense.

As the New Covenant is significantly different from the Old, church life is far different from the life of the nation of Israel. The life of the church is a life of faith. Let's live for Jesus in the freedom our Lord provides.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Genre, Genre, Genre

Poor interpretation of the Old Testament invariably leads to all sorts of problems for the church. One primary cause of these problems is a misunderstanding of genre.

Genre refers to types of literature. The bible as a whole is composed of many different forms of genre. For example, the Gospel of Matthew follows a back-and-forth pattern between narrative passages (what Jesus did) and teaching passages (what Jesus taught). The first four chapters of Matthew detail for us the birth narrative, Jesus' baptism, Jesus' temptation, and his beginning to preach, teach, and heal. However, when we reach chapters 5-7 we read one of Jesus' great teaching passages: the Sermon on the Mount. In chapter eight, Matthew returns to narrative.

The bible is full of many different types of genre besides teaching and narrative. We must be aware of what genre we are reading in order to know how to comprehend it today. To treat all genre the same is take a foolish approach to scripture.

One serious problem that plagues the church is the application of narrative passages from the OT to church life. The OT provides us with narrative accounts of priests doing various things at the tabernacle and later the temple. I've heard these OT passages referred to many times as reasons why the church today should have clergy who perform religious activities in special church buildings. The clear problem with this is that the OT is simply describing what was happening in a particular place and time. No indication exists that God expects us to follow these descriptions.

God told Noah to build an ark. Therefore, are we supposed to build an ark today? Of course not. However, God told the children of Israel to follow the Ten Commandments. Are we required to follow those ten commands? No we are not. They were given to a particular people in place and time. We are not Israel. We are not of the Old Covenant. Despite this, many Christians still believe we have to follow the Ten Commandments today. One reason for this confusion is that they treat the Exodus 20 passage as if it is a teaching passage from the New Testament. Rather, we should all see it for what it is: a narrative passage from the OT.

I'm not suggesting that we cannot learn from the OT. We must take care, however, in what we learn and how we apply it. Genre has direct impact upon this. Whenever we read the bible, regardless of what particular book and chapter, we must ask ourselves what type of genre we are reading; is it narrative, teaching, poetry, prophecy, epic, apocalyptic, etc.?

God has given us plenty of information to know how we should live as his people today. We are his New Covenant people. Not surprisingly then, much of this information is to be found in the New Testament. To reach back to the Old Testament, especially to narrative passages, is to ask for trouble.

The church must realize that genre makes a difference.

Friday, October 3, 2014

No More Sacrifices Needed


For a brief break from my series on OT interpretation, I offer up the above comic. Although it is somewhat silly, it has a ring of serious truth. Jesus is our once for all perfect sacrifice. God be praised!


Thanks to ReverendFun.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

All of the OT is Not the OT Law

We must be careful at this point. So far in this series I've mentioned the Old Testament, the Old Testament Law, and the Old Covenant. It is extremely important that we do not confuse these three or think of them as being synonymous. If we do this, we may end up considering the Old Testament as irrelevant. This would be a tragic mistake.

The Old Testament is all of the books from Genesis to Malachi (or in the ordering of the Hebrew bible: Genesis to Chronicles). The OT Law is found in the OT; we read it specifically from the second half of Exodus through Leviticus and into the first part of Numbers. The Old Covenant is God's agreement with Israel that is founded upon the law given at Mount Sinai.

I want to make it clear in this post that all of the OT is not the OT law. In fact, a good portion of the OT still has direct application for us today. One clear example of this is the book of Psalms. This lengthy book amounts to praise after praise of our wondrous God. There's no reason to think that this would change between the time it was written and today.

We must be alert as we read through the pages of the OT. Some sections that are not part of the OT law still refer directly back to it and are connected with it. For example, instructions related to care and upkeep of the temple fall into this category. These aspects do not pertain to us today. They are interesting historically and show us much about the holiness of God. In that sense they are instructive. However, they do not tell us how to live now.

We read other OT passages that deal directly with holy living, acceptable worship of God, care and service to other people, avoidance of false teaching, danger of idolatry, etc. that do have direct application to the life of the church today. We need to pay careful attention to these parts of the Old Testament.

Blessedly, we do not have to follow the OT law. However, the law is not all we find in the OT. It is the other parts of the OT that we must not ignore as we ask how we must live today.

One other important thing to keep in mind as we read the OT is genre. We'll look at that next in this series.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Jesus Christ Fulfilled the Law. We Don't Have to, Nor Could We.


This is the third post in my series on poor interpretation of the Old Testament and its impact upon the church.

In Matthew chapter 5 Jesus says, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (Matthew 5:17-18).

Is Jesus telling his followers that they are supposed to keep the OT law? Is Jesus saying that the law still applies? Is Jesus instructing his disciples to keep just part of the law? What is going on?

What is going on is that Jesus is saying that he has come into the world to fulfill the law. He is going to do what no one else has ever been able to do. He is the only one who could perfectly keep the demands of God's law. He did this because we cannot.

Throughout Jesus' life we see obedience to an infinite degree. He did not sin - ever. The only reason his sacrifice of himself was acceptable to his Father is because he was perfect. This allowed his atonement to be a substitutionary one.

When on the cross Jesus said several things. One of them (likely spoken in Aramaic but written down by John in Greek) was tetelestai. This word is usually translated "It is finished." While it means this, it also carries the idea of "It is accomplished." One of the primary things Jesus did was accomplish the perfect fulfillment of the OT law. He was the first and last person to do this.

As followers of Jesus, we are freed from the demands of the law. Because the law doesn't apply to us, we do not have to follow any of it. It has no impact on how we live church life today. The law ought not affect our church practice, principles, or forms. Instead, Jesus has freed us to live as his New Covenant followers. We've been shown much in the New Testament to instruct us in how church life should look today.

Many of today's traditional church practices stem from faulty interpretation of the OT. This ought not be. We have no need for the Old Covenant. It is a relic, a thing of the past. To follow it in any of our practices is to go backwards. Christ has given us something far better.

Our Lord perfectly fulfilled the OT law for several reasons. One was so that we don't have to. Praise the Lord for this gift!

Friend, if you are trying to fulfill any parts of the OT law, please let me encourage you to stop. You don't need to. God doesn't expect you to. Embrace the freedom of the New Covenant.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

We Do Not Have to Follow the OT Law

The Old Testament law is beneficial for several reasons. It shows us the holiness of God. It restrains, at least in the case of OT Israel, sin. Also, the OT law makes it abundantly clear to us that we are in desperate need of a savior. Each person in this world needs salvation because nobody perfectly keeps the law. Every individual on earth, whether they know it or not, who has not been saved by Christ is still under the OT law.

But what about those of us who Christ has saved? We are members of the New Covenant. Do we have to follow the OT law?

The answer is a resounding NO.

The OT law, with its connection to the Old Covenant, no longer has any bearing upon us. What matters now is faith. It is faith that saves through our union with Jesus Christ and His perfection. Paul tells us in Galatians 2:16-17, "...yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified."

In order to be found not guilty of transgressing the OT law, we must be one with Jesus Christ. This only occurs through faith. Trying to follow the OT law is fruitless and actually shows a lack of faith in what Jesus has already accomplished. The law no longer has any grip upon us; why would we turn back to it?

A significant problem in the church today is that many Christians act as if at least some of the OT law still applies. They point back to the OT to say that we must meet on Sundays (Sabbath regulations), we should have a big building (OT temple), and that we should pay pastors (OT priests). These interpretations break down in many different places, but for our purpose here I just want to focus on the big picture. If these OT forms still apply, it means that the entire law still applies to those in the New Covenant. If it does, then the gospel means nothing!

The gospel has freed us from OT law restrictions. Christ has unshackled us from that law to follow His law: Galatians 6:2 says, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." We've been freed to live lives of faith, enjoying Christ fully.

Please do not allow other well-intentioned Christians to convince you that the OT law still applies. Quite simply, it does not. The OT law should not be used as any sort of support for current church forms and practices. When this happens, problems quickly arise. We are members of the New Covenant. We ought to be looking to the New Covenant to show us what church life must look like. Christ has freed us to do so.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Poor Interpretation of the Old Testament Always Leads to a Multitude of Church Problems


The Old Testament is wonderful. It is as much a part of the bible as the New Testament is. In fact, it makes up about 2/3 of the scriptures. From its pages we learn much about who God is, who we are, how the world began, what our problems are, how God plans to save us, who the suffering servant is, etc. Above all else, the Old Testament reveals to us who our wonderful, majestic Creator is and what He is like. It is God's revelation of Himself to us. We can learn much from the Old Testament and do well to spend much time in it.

That being said, the Old Testament is not a manual for how to live church life. If we treat it as such, we run the risk of the same poor interpretation that has plagued much of the church for centuries. Poor O.T. interpretation always leads to a multitude of church problems. The reason for this is that most of the O.T. focuses on God's relationship with Israel. The majority of this information deals with the Old Covenant. It no longer applies to those of us who are part of the New Covenant.

The O.T. itself points ahead to the New Covenant as something being far different from what was going on at that time. Jeremiah 31:31-34 tells us:

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

We see in these verses the New Covenant contrasted with the Old Covenant. It is something far different.

Please let me be clear about one thing: the Old Testament is not the same thing as the Old Covenant. However, much of the information contained in the Old Testament focuses on the Old Covenant. Therefore, when Christians today make direct application from O.T. passages to church life, they frequently do so incorrectly.

Frankly, much of what has been going on for hundreds of years is a form of reverse interpretation. This occurs when Christians enjoy a church practice that is, in fact, based more in tradition than anything else. These Christians look in the New Testament to find support for this practice but cannot find any. Therefore, they then turn back to the Old Testament to find something to base their current practices upon. This is when the problem rears its ugly head. These believers use things found in O.T. Israel as a way to support what they are doing today.  This happens again and again despite the fact that they are pointing back to the Old Covenant.

Let me point out one stark example of this: the large, expensive church building. The New Testament provides no support for this idea whatsoever. Therefore, those who want something to base today's buildings upon point back to the O.T. temple for support. This is incredibly bad interpretation. It is using the Old Covenant to support the New Covenant even though Jeremiah has told us that they are two completely different things.

I'm deeply concerned about the church today. Even though it is a wonderful thing, it has many problems. Some of these problems stem directly from exceedingly poor interpretation of the Old Testament.

This is the first post in a blog series I'm writing on O.T. interpretive problems. These are problems that still directly impact the church today.

I believe that if the church will stop pointing back to Old Covenant forms and practices it will become a much healthier church. My hope is not simply to discuss problems but also solutions. In order to be a healthy church, we need to look to the correct place. That place is the New Covenant, which is largely found in the N.T. as opposed to the O.T.

Good interpretation is a necessity for a healthy, thriving church. I have no doubt that this is what God desires.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

All Salaried Pastors Everywhere, Please Resign!


This is a call to all salaried pastors everywhere on earth: please resign right now!

Christ's church has both much potential and many problems. The church could be so much more if Christ's people en masse lived as the priests they already are. One of the biggest roadblocks to an active, thriving church is salaried pastors. I should know; I used to be one.

The salaried pastorate inadvertently keeps the church shackled. A damaging co-dependent relationship exists between paid pastors and the people in the pews: the pastor(s) gets paid to "do the work of the ministry" while the people largely sit and watch. Despite good intentions, this relationship stifles the good that the church can do and the wondrous thing it can be.

I do not sugarcoat or soften this call in any way. I believe all pastors who receive salaries from churches should resign today. This applies to all places on earth. Do not worry; you are not indispensable to the church. The Holy Spirit can lead things just fine on His own. In your absence, He will raise up elders from within the body who will lead through servanthood.

Rather than leaving the churches where you are employed, I'm simply stating that you should resign from your positions. Consider teaching about why this will help the church. Stay there. Change your role. Lead through service instead of decision making. Become one of the body, equal with everybody else. Encourage others to lead in their various areas of gifting. Stay in the background.

Please, pastor friend and brother in Christ, resign now. God will take care of you. He provides for me and my family each day. It won't be easy, but Christ did not call us to lives of ease. Rather, He called us to live as part of His priesthood and encourage/exhort others to do the same. We are all part of one body, all needed by the whole.

Resign and watch what the Holy Spirit will do. It will be an exciting ride and one that will please the Lord.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"What We're For" to the Publisher!

I am thrilled to announce that I've sent my final edited copy of What We're For to Redeeming Press for publishing. This is both a joy and a relief. Editing twenty-five chapters is indeed a challenge. While the process was enjoyable, it was also taxing. Sometimes I felt as if I couldn't see straight.

The best part of editing this book was simply getting to read the chapters. It is fascinating to see what different Christ-followers believe about the church. While all of the contributors agreed on some basic principles (simplicity being one of them), the specifics varied widely. This book is a type of anthology; it is by no means monolithic.

Thank you so much for praying for me. I am very much looking forward to the final product.

Now the book is in Jeremy Myers' hands. His goal is to have it published sometime this fall.

I will give updates as What We're For nears completion.

Jeremy's and my hope is that God will use this book to bring about understanding, conversation, and increased unity within His body.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Is This a Joke?

While I know that this is not a joke, it sure seems like one.

The add basically invites you to spend hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars on a comfortable cruise around the Caribbean while listening to theological lectures. Could Christianity be made to seem any cushier?

The scriptures tell us that life with Christ will often be difficult. We may have to suffer due to our affiliation with Jesus. Many Christians around the world today have great struggle in their lives on a regular basis. Meanwhile, those of us with money are expected to share it with those who have little.

In light of these things, how can a comfy theology cruise be justified? While the truths taught during the theology lectures will probably be solid, the very existence of this cruise conveys something else. It says that living for Jesus is easy and fun. Frankly, this cruise appears dangerously similar to what the prosperity gospel teaches.

Yuck.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Is the Gathering for the Going?

Why does the church get together?

This is a very significant question. It is also a question that I believe does not get asked enough today. My guess is that if you asked most Christians why the church meets, they would answer something like "to worship God." While that sounds good, the bible tells us that all of life is worship (see Romans 12:1-2).

If the answer is not "to worship God," then why does the church gather? The bible tells us that the purpose is mutual edification (I Cor. 14:26). When the body meets, the point to it all is the mutual growth of that body toward both Christ and Christlikeness.

Some believers suggest that the gathering is for the going. Specifically, they believe that the purpose of the edification is to equip the body to fulfill the Great Commission. But is this accurate? Does the building up happen primarily so that the body will then go out and tell others about Christ?

My answer: body edification happens primarily for four reasons, not primarily for one. In other words, the building up is for equipping the saints for the Great Commission task, but not primarily for that. Edification has four primary prongs, not just one.

When I look in scripture, I see mutually edifying gatherings doing four things. In no particular order these are:

1. Encouraging believers to live holy lives
2. Encouraging believers to sacrificially serve one another
3. Encouraging believers to care for the poor, sick, and needy both inside and outside the body
4. Encouraging believers to take the gospel to the ends of the earth

As we read through the pages of the book of Acts, we see all four of the above in action. Later, when we read the epistles to the churches, we see exhortations to all of the above. None of the four appears to be demonstrably more important than the others. All are key aspects of the Christian life. We do well as believers to edify one another toward all these things. We also ought to take stock of our own lives to see if we are ignoring any.

So, is the gathering for the going? In part yes, but it is so much more than that. Let's edify each other to holy living, to sacrificially serve others, and to take the gospel where it isn't. Christ both empowers these and expects these from His followers. What great privileges we have in Him!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Moving Beyond House Church to Simple Church


For the past few years I've been a big proponent of house church life. I still believe that gathering in homes is a wonderful way to get together. Despite this, I recently realized that I've moved past this being a significant issue for me. I don't really care so much where people meet. I'm much more concerned about why they meet.

According to scripture, Christ's church gathers for the purpose of mutual edification. This can occur just about anywhere. Homes are great places for it. However, so are coffee shops, parks, restaurants, store fronts, lakes, cars, etc. In fact, almost any place that is conducive to conversation is also conducive to edification.

To edify is to build up. To do this mutually requires two-way communication. Thus, free-flowing conversation is a key. While houses allow for this, so do many other locations. Any place where multiple Christians can meet simply is a good place to gather.

One type of location that is not generally effective in bringing about mutual edification is big buildings. These, combined with ceremonies, actually stifle the building up of the body.

In order for the body to grow in Christ, we all must take part in helping one another mature. Since we are all priests to God, we all have the great privilege and responsibility of helping our brothers and sisters move closer to both Christ and Christlikeness. This happens when we all take responsibility for each other. While Christianity is individual in salvation, it is very much communal when it comes to spiritual growth. We grow best together.

This growth happens most effectively in simple gatherings almost any place and any time. My encouragement to you is to be creative when it comes to where you gather with other believers. You have much freedom in this. Meet in homes, but get together in various other locales as well.

The purpose, not the place, is what is important.