July 7, 2011
For all you avid biblio-bloggers, be sure to check out The Divining Blog and its recent post The top 50 blogs by divinity and theology professors. As a student, it is always interesting to see what professors are blogging out there. Also, perhaps an interesting spin-off-post from the one I just mentioned could be entitled “top 50 blogs by ordinary joe-shmoe’s.” In fact, that is one of the things I enjoy most about blogging, the fact that anyone can write a blog. A lot of people hold this against blogging. I even heard a seminary professor once criticize blogging because “anyone can write a blog and air their opinions. Why should I care about what you think? What are your credentials?” Hearing such a statement saddened me; aren’t all believers being molded to the image of Christ and learning the tough lessons of obedience? Aren’t all believers learning lessons from the word and being guided by the Spirit? In my opinion, this means that every believer has something “blog-worthy” whether they have impressive credentials or not.
May 9, 2011
Let me share one of my favorite lines from the movie “The King’s Speech.” King George, who led Britain during the time of WWII, is meeting with Lionel, his speech therapist, in order to overcome a stuttering problem:
Lionel: [as George is lighting up a cigarette] “Please don’t do that.”
King George: “I’m sorry?”
Lionel: “I believe sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you.”
King George: “My physicians say it relaxes the throat.”
Lionel: “They’re idiots.”
King George:”They’ve all been knighted.”
Lionel: “Makes it official then.”
How ironic, the physicians who said it was okay to smoke had been knighted! This did not faze Lionel from calling them [official] idiots. Earlier in the movie Lionel, met the King for the first time and explained his “office rules.” During their speech sessions, the two would be complete equals — no titles or formalities. Thus, King George Albert VI would simply be called “Bertie” and Lionel insisted that he himself simply be called Lionel, rather than “Doctor Lionel.”
This idea becomes a major theme in the movie. Later, it is revealed that Lionel, the king’s speech therapist, was not a doctor at all. The King is furious and is about to seek out another qualified therapist, one who has a degree with a title after his name. But Lionel explains that, although he may not have an official degree, his methods work. He learned his techniques by experience, by helping soldiers in Australia learn to speak again after having “shell-shock.”
In the end, Lionel’s tactics prove to work and the king is able to comfort and guide England throughout WWII by delivering radio speeches. Lionel would accompany the King for every public address he delivered while on the throne, and the two remained close friends the rest of their lives.
This scenario really got me thinking about how we as Christians tend to treat degrees and titles. Too often it seems the church allows itself to be seduced by the priorities of the world. For example, too often the church chooses its leaders based on degrees and education, or success and wealth, rather than on the things emphasized in Scripture, such as one’s ability to manage his family, the husband of one wife, etc. What a mistake it is to think that education makes one qualified for leadership among God’s people. Isn’t it true that some of the godliest people have never had any formal education, while some of the most immature believers hold seminary degrees?
January 7, 2011
I think it’s reasonably safe to assume that any given Sunday, as we sit in the cozy buildings in which our churches gather, no matter the size of the congregation, we sit within arms reach of someone with serious marital trouble, tremendous financial pressure, a sorrower needing comfort, next to someone grappling with real theological questions, wondering what’s wrong with the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, next to someone who experienced real victory this week, who experienced new boldness in their witness, answered prayer, victory over sin.
I’m also convinced that within the same building sits one with a word of encouragement, a word of exhortation, a song of praise, a timely Scripture, a genuine desire to listen, to rejoice, to mourn. Yet, because of the structure of the typical “worship service” in America, those needing encouragement and those ready to offer it sit in virtual silence, listening to the same two or three voices week after week.
Unlike our silent services, it seems that the New Testament gatherings were quite noisy affairs–orderly noise, of course–the kind where one person speaks at a time as the others weigh carefully what is being said, and where everyone with something to say takes turns. Yes, I believe that loving, orderly participation is not only possible, it’s biblical.
August 30, 2010
Christians are “the people who share in a heavenly call… it must mean a vocation which has a spiritual and not a material direction…. There is no support for the view that the call comes from within a man, for in all cases the call comes from God. Man’s part is to become a co-operator by responding to it…. To share in a heavenly call is to become closely identified with the caller, i.e. God. No wonder such people are called ‘holy’. The New Testament implies that this is the norm for Christians. They are a called out people.”
-D. Guthrie, Hebrews, 97.
April 25, 2010
“Whatever they were means nothing to me” (Gal 2:6).
Paul cared nothing about a man’s status, and only about his position in Christ. He gave no special preference to lofty apostleship, but in fact rebuked Peter –PETER– to his face (Gal 2:11). Before important men, Paul harped about God not judging by external appearance (Gal 2:6). Paul wore no special name tag identifying his rank or credentials.
Having such an attitude, Paul could write, “You are all sons of God…There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ” (Gal 3:26,28).
With such a view, Paul said, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God? Or am I trying to please men? It it were so, I would not be a servant of Jesus” (Gal 1:10).
With such conviction about the unimportance of position, Paul could instruct, “Brothers…you must gently restore the one taken in by sin” (Gal 6:1).
Surely no title in our day compares to the one Peter deserved, yet even his position as apostle was trumped by his status brother. Peter, the rock, the Lord’s right hand man, the one who walked on water, the speaker at Pentecost, the witness at the tomb, the one in the garden, the one at the last supper–Peter the Apostle–”What they are means nothing to me.”
Surely no title in our day approaches that of Apostle. If such a rank held little weight in Paul’s eyes, what do our man-made ones now hold? Christ’s priorities are so opposite than the world’s, so backwards. Maybe my viewpoints needs some recalibration in light of God’s word.
February 8, 2010
I’ve been thinking for a while about equality in the Church. I guess it’s finally time to share some of these thoughts with you.
Most everyone would agree that there exists, at least in theory, equality among Christians. After all, we all have been given equal access to God through Christ. There is no longer a special class of people having access to God, but every believer can go directly into God’s very presence through of Christ. Furthermore, believers have each been given spiritual gifts to serve God. Therefore, each is equally a minister and servant of God.
In light of such equality, one righly wonders if there remains any inequality among believers. As shocking as it may sound, I think that there remains significant, God-ordained inequality. Failure to understand this inequality leads to all sorts of misunderstandings and faulty practice. Only when the church understands its inequalities will it rightly be able to serve and function as a unified whole.
So are there inequalities in the body? While there is an incredible equality of status as God’s saved and serving priests, there remains an altogether different kind of inequality. For each is a priest, but each has a a different gift. Some seem to have a whole plethora of giftings, while others seem to have one small gift that often goes unnoticed and unappreciated. In other cases, some share the same gift, but in different measures. Though they share the same capability, one seems to excel far beyond the other in the exercise and use of that same gift.
What then do we make of such seeming inequality, especially of gifting, among beleivers? Do we deny that inequality exists? I think this is the wrong response. To echo the words of C.S. Lewis in his speech on “Membership,” “Artificial equality is necessary in the life of the State, but in the Church we strip off this disguise, we recover our real inequalities, and are thereby refreshed and quickened.”
I think that the Church, in responding to such inequality, has made some false assumptions. The fatal assumption is that the highly gifted should do the majority of the ministry, while the less gifted should take the back seat, and become spectators. The highly gifted, then, end up accumulating more and more responsibility, leaving less and less for the other believers to do. It is easy to understand how such an error was made. After all, wouldn’t it be logical to assume that the most highly gifted should do most of the ministry? Sadly, I think in our ultra-technological age we are beginning to see the tragic consequences of such a flawed assumption. Now the super-gifted do not merely accumulate the ministry within the four walls of a local congregation. Rather, we find that now the most gifted pastors and Christian speakers are not merely confined to their own congregations, but are projected live via satellite to numerous locations throughout the country. If such a practice continues, we could very soon find that five or six super-gifted believers do all this type of ministry for those of us who have an average or sub average gifting in this area.
So it seems, then, that although there remains inequality among beleivers, this does not mean that the most gifted should take on more and more of the work. What is the proper response, then, to such inequality? I think the solution is quite simple. Allow the less gifted a chance to exercise their gifting. There will always be someone more qualified, more gifted, more experienced, more capable. But maybe, just maybe, God delights in using the unlikely, the weak, the bumbling, the foolish. Perhaps it is not about always having the polished delivery, the best, most state of the art, most professional. Perhaps God delights to use those who don’t have their act together, who are still beset with weakness and struggles. Wasn’t it the apostle Paul who talked about God using cracked pots so that the glory would go to the contents, rather than the vessel?
Perhaps Paul had this idea in mind when he wrote, “On the contrary! Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indespensible, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor” (1 Cor 12:22).
For some reason, God delights to entrust his magnificent gospel to us weak, foolish human beings. Why would he do that? Perhaps, whatever the answer is to that question, it is the for the same reason that he delights to equally use the unequally gifted.
Let us not pretend that all possess the same measure of gifting. But let us also avoid the mistake of thinking that the most gifted must do the most service, for God delights to use the foolish to shame the wise.
January 18, 2010
***There are several pastors in my life whom I love dearly. Please know that this is by no means written with you in mind. Rather, I’m interacting cultural norms on the whole.***
I want to follow up my last post with one further comment. As mentioned previously, Paul’s list of gifts includes, among others, prophecy, serving, teaching, and leadership. Why is this important? This fact is critically important because of common assumptions in many churches. Who generally does the teaching in todays church? The pastor. Who generally provides the leadership? The pastor. Who generally does the prophesying? Well, that depends on how you define prophesy. If by prophecy you mean the forthtelling of the word, then the pastor, of course. But why do we assume that the pastor must be the one to function in all these different speaking gifts? Paul nowhere says these belong to the pastor, and in fact the word pastor does not occur in Romans 12 (But, of course, pastors are by all means biblical and important). So then, might it be possible for one person in a church to possess the gift of teaching, another the gift of prophecy, and another the gift of leadership?
But let us not forget the gift of service. In most churches, who is generally considered to have the gift of service? Usually the nursery workers, the offering collectors, the grounds keepers, and the kitchen cooks. In other words, the ones that seem the least important in the body are generally labelled “gifted servants.” Jesus, however, taught that those who were the greatest would be the servants, and the one who leads like the one who washes feet. What would happen if pastors claimed service as their primary gift, or is that taboo?
January 18, 2010
This morning in my quiet time I read Romans 12. Paul’s list of gifts caught my attention. It seems that in each place the gifts are mentioned, they can be generalized under two main categories: speaking gifts and serving gifts. Thus, in Romans 12:6-8 we see the gifts of prophecy (speaking), service, teaching (speaking), encouraging (speaking and serving), giving (serving), leadership (speaking and serving).
Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, we see the word of wisdom (speaking), word of knowledge (speaking), faith (serving), healing (serving), miraculous power (serving), prophecy (speaking), discerning spirits (serving), tongues (speaking), interpretation of tongues (speaking). Not surprisingly, then, when Peter writes about the gifts, he refers to these general headings, saying, “Each one should use whatever gift he has recieved to serve others… if anyone speaks, he should do so as one speaking the very words of God, if anyone serves, let him do so with the strength God provides” (1 Peter 4:10-11).
Clearly, then, God has given a variety of speaking gifts to his body, the church. Why is it, then, that only one person is generally allowed to speak in church? God has seen fit for there to be quite many who speak, using various giftings, in the assembled body. Do churches allow room for such God-gifted speech?
December 28, 2009
December 19, 2009
(This conclusion will be a very loose paraphrase/analagy of 1 Cor 12-14).
But the solution to their musical inklings was not to be found in becoming a guild of fiddlers. The solution was found in the Grand Musician’s original instructions for the band. And here’s what He said:
Now, about the band, I don’t want you to be ignorant…
To each one an instrument is given for the common good,
To one the banjo,
To one the organ,
To one the piano,
To one the guitar,
To one the flute,
and to one the fiddle.
All of these originate from the one Grand Musician, who gives to each the instrument according to His own plan.
So you are a band, made up of many instruments, and though the instruments are many, they form one band.
Now, the band is not made up of one instrument, but many. If everyone were a fiddler, where would the music be? The piano can’t say to the oboe, “I don’t need you.” The guitar can’t say to the harmonica, “You don’t belong!” And if the clarinet should say, “Because I’m not a fiddle, I don’t belong to the band,” it would not for that reason cease to be a part.
But in fact, the Grand Musician has arranged the members of the band, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the music be? As it is, there are many instruments, but one band. Those instruments that seem to be weaker are indespensible. The Grand Musician has combined the instruments of the band and given greater honor to them that lacked it, so that there should be no division and so that each musician should have equal concern for each other (not only the fiddler). If one instrumentalist is out of pitch, every part suffers. If one musician dominates the band, every part suffers.
Now, you are the Musician’s very own band, and each of you is a part of it! If you really want to excell as musicians, play in a way that is loving. Therefore, play in a way that is loving, play in a way that is encouraging, play in a way that is participatory, and by all means, include the fiddle (1 Cor. 14:40)!