When my children were younger, we would read a book to them called Are You My Mother? At the beginning of the book, a bird is hatched, and it spends the remainder of the book looking for its mother. The young bird asks anything and everything it sees (a cow, a dog, even a power shovel), “Are you my mother?” The bird did not know what its mother would be like…
I think many Christians are walking around following “leaders” who are not really leaders. Why? Like the bird in the children’s story book, I don’t think most Christians know what a leader looks like. A leader among the church (according to Scripture, anyway) does not look like the normal business or civic or social leader.
This is how I ended the article, and this is the questions that I think we should all consider:
What if the people you view as leaders are not actually the leaders that God has placed in your life? How would you know the difference?
Please jump over to House2House Magazine, read the article, and leave me some feedback.
For the last several years, my family and friends have been praying for Becky Lynn Black as she fought cancer. This morning I heard that she finished that fight – a fight that lasted several years longer than doctors suggested – and she emerged on the other side victorious through Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom she is now celebrating.
Mrs. Becky Lynn passed away this morning.
If you don’t know her, she was the wife of my former PhD mentor Dave Black who blogs here.
I thank God for her life and for what he taught me through her, especially by showing me how to love and serve others. Over and over I witnessed her give to others, even toward the end of her life when many would have stopped.
I encourage you to read more about her and to join me in thanking God for his children like her.
Also, please pray for Dave Black, her family, and friends. They will miss her greatly in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. But, we know that God is able to comfort them and strengthen them during this time.
Last Friday, “House2House Magazine” published an article that I wrote called “I Know How to Do a Bible Study.” I appreciate Keith Giles for inviting me to write for the new magazine and for publishing a couple of my articles.
It’s really interesting, especially since I’m not really a “house church” guy. (See my post “Why I’m not a house church proponent.”) Anyway, there are some very good posts at House2House Magazine, and most of them are applicable to all followers of Jesus Christ, even those like myself who do not only meet in homes.
This is how my article “I Know How to Do a Bible Study” begins:
I know how to do a Bible study. For as long as I can remember – at least from elementary school – I have been in Bible studies. They have had many different names: Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Discipleship Class, Youth Group, Bible Fellowship. But, they all had something in common: a bunch of people got together to hear someone teach a passage or topic from the Bible.
Over the years, I even learned how to lead and teach Bible studies. I learned how to study Scripture, how to prepare a lesson, and how to teach the Bible. I could convince people that they needed to attend the Bible studies, encourage them to join with others in studying Scripture, and even show them some things from the Bible that they had never noticed before.
In the article, I also write about knowing how to do participatory church meetings and missions projects. But, the conclusion is the most important part to me. Please use the link above to jump over to House2House Magazine and read my short article.
Dave Black is writing a new book about the church. He has tentatively (or maybe permanently) titled it Seven Marks of a New Testament Church.
Over the last few days, he’s shared several excerpts, and they’ve been really good. But the latest except was exceptional (to me) because he also refers to another book that I highly recommend.
Here is that latest excerpt from chapter 4 of his new book (from Monday, September 23, 2013 at 9:12 a.m.):
In this chapter we have seen some of the marks of genuine community that characterized the early church. What a magnificent picture of life together! Maybe theirs was an idealism that cannot be repeated today. We may talk about community, but if we continue to behave like a group of individualists, no one will believe what we say. The picture that Luke gives us of the earliest church should make us stop and think.
Joseph Hellerman, author of When the Church Was a Family, has some interesting comments to make about the vitality of the church (p. 143). “It is time,” he writes, “to inform our people that conversion to Christianity involves both our justification and our familification, that we gain a new Father when we respond to the gospel. It is time to communicate the biblical reality that personal salvation is a community-building event, and to trust God to change our lives and the lives of our churches accordingly.”
Our modern churches could learn a thing or two from the genuine love of the first Christians. Theirs is a shining example. And if we ask the secret of it, we do not have far to look: the secret lay in the presence of the Holy Spirit. His power is available to us all. And it is life-changing. Just imagine what the Spirit could do in our churches if He were allowed to have control. It could happen again.
First, I love the term “familification” that Hellerman uses in his book. It points to the fact that there is a change that happens that moves us from not being a family to being a family.
I also love that Black points out that this is a work of the Holy Spirit. If we are becoming a family, it is because we are submitting to the Holy Spirit.
And, if we are not becoming a family…
Yesterday, I asked the question, “What are some of the benefits of sermons?” (I encourage you to read the comments in that post.)
What are some of the benefits of discussions? So, that may sound like a weird question.
Some of my readers have determined that discussions are not as beneficial to the church as sermons. So, those readers might immediately respond, “There are NO benefits to discussions.” Well, I don’t think that’s true (even if I believe that there are benefits to sermons).
Other readers are convinced that discussions are the primary method through which God communicates which his people. For those readers, this question seems self explanatory: “Discussions are beneficial because they are discussions! Duh.”
Still other readers are on the fence about discussions and/or sermons.
So, why am I asking this question?
A few weeks ago, I was have a conversation with a friend about discussions and sermons. And, I realized that I had never written specifically about the benefits of each method of teaching.
Here’s a quick definition: More than one person teaching about a topic or passage from Scripture.
Now, I know that everyone has experiences with good discussions and bad discussions. I’m not interested in that in this post.
In this post, I’m asking for you feedback on this question: What are some of the benefits of discussions?
You may want to throw out your reasons for disliking discussions. Please don’t. That’s not the purpose of this post.
You may want to tell me all the benefits of the sermon. Please don’t. That’s not the purpose of this post.
There may be benefits that are common to any kind of teaching or speaking. That’s fine. If it’s a benefit of discussions, then please share it.
So, what are some of the benefits of discussions?
What are some of the benefits of sermons? So, that may sound like a weird question.
Some of my readers have determined that sermons are not as beneficial to the church as discussion and/or participatory teaching. So, those readers might immediately respond, “There are NO benefits to sermons.” Well, I don’t think that’s true (even if I believe that discussion is better).
Other readers are convinced that sermons are the primary method through which God communicates which his people. For those readers, this question seems self explanatory: “Sermons are beneficial because they are sermons! Duh.”
Still other readers are on the fence about sermons and/or discussion.
So, why am I asking this question?
A few weeks ago, I was have a conversation with a friend about sermons and discussions. And, I realized that I had never written specifically about the benefits of each method of teaching.
Here’s a quick definition: A teaching given by one person about a topic or passage from Scripture.
Now, I know that everyone has experiences with good sermons and bad sermons. I’m not interested in that in this post.
In this post, I’m asking for you feedback on this question: What are some of the benefits of sermons?
You may want to throw out your reasons for disliking sermons. Please don’t. That’s not the purpose of this post.
You may want to tell me all the benefits of discussion. Please don’t. That’s not the purpose of this post.
There may be benefits that are common to any kind of teaching or speaking. That’s fine. If it’s a benefit of sermons, then please share it.
So, what are some of the benefits of sermons?
Justin and I began communicating via email a couple of years ago, and his story was well worth the wait. I encourage you to jump over and read the whole thing, but here’s a snippet:
My life was pretty typical of the average young person who is passionate about following Jesus and who feels called into full-time ministry. I was born in South Africa but I was living in California, church planting a cell church, when my freedom story really started.
I felt discipleship and worship had always been in my heart and was starting to feel like God was calling me into some sort of worship pastor type role in the church. (You’ll often hear me talk about God initiating things in my life, here is where he started with me). So I knew what that looked like, and I knew what type of churches had worship pastors, so I began pursuing this call. No problem right?
Well no sooner had I landed a call as worship pastor, my lawyer informed me that our visas weren’t going to be renewed/extended. This meant we had 2 months to pack and ship our lives back to South Africa. We were devastated, in South Africa the only churches that can afford worship pastors are the rich mega-churches, and our hearts were just not into that. I prayed and asked God what he was doing and he said “just go back and get a regular job, don’t chase a ministry position just for a pay check”. As it turned out this was God’s way of initiating a new journey for us, one I would never have conceived of or chosen.
Justin ends his story with this:
God then in the last year has been doing more of a constructive work in us as he has redefined for us what he means by the cross, prayer, the Gospel, bible reading, church, community, leadership, grace, calling, ministry, parenting etc. He has also been giving us language to be able to describe and share what he is doing with us. In the last month or so there seems to be another shift as I feel him leading me to engage other people along this journey.
I’m hoping this means that he plans to write more about God’s constructive work in his life and about the people that God has led him to engage along the journey.
If you’re interested in sharing your own journey, please send me a link at alan [at] alanknox [dot] net. Or, if you don’t have a blog or website, send me the story, and I’ll be glad to publish it for you.
Earlier this week, I published a post called “Making a Difference” in which I pointed my readers to a family who stopped focusing on “church-stuff” in order to actually make a difference in people’s lives.
In the last few days, I’ve run across other people who are also living out this concept of making a difference as the church.
In Kathleen’s description, I love the fact that people seeking to serve addicts soon find that the addicts are serving them. What a concept! God working through the broken…
In a similar (but slightly different) vein, Jeff at “Virginia Tenor” wonders about serving others to “make a difference” in his post “KWOL in the Rolling Ridges.” I love that Jeff is concerned that his desire to serve others will turn into just another example of “church-stuff.” I think that’s a good concern…
So, please read those posts… and ask God how he wants you to make a difference in someone’s life.
Several years ago, I ran across a blog called “A Future and a Hope.” (Actually, at that time it was called “Pure Christianity.”) I haven’t linked to the site lately, but a recent post called “We are not ‘BIG,’ but we are great” caught my attention.
More than many other posts that I’ve read (or written) recently, this one really encapsulates and describes what I’m beginning to understand (and live) concerning the church.
This is part of the post:
Firstly, a little history. Johnny & I moved to Kenya to make a difference. After two years of preaching, teaching, and trying to make a difference in the typical missionary fashion, we realized that it wasn’t working. We knew we needed to just do it and be an example ourselves. We had to be willing to walk the talk and so we took in orphans into our personal home expanding our family from just the five of us at that time to sixteen, and ultimately, I believe, we are changing the face of how orphan care should be done.
Today, the church focuses so much on doing church-stuff at church-times in church-places with church-people… But, there’s so much more to following Jesus Christ.
Kate’s post (and please take a few minutes to read the whole post) reminds me so much of what I read in Scripture concerning how believers are to interact with the world around them. (For one example, read Titus 2 again.)
Think seriously for a moment about this statement: “We knew we needed to just do it and be an example ourselves.” The church would be so much different if every follower of Jesus Christ understood that this was their calling… to live the gospel of Jesus Christ at all times in every places before every person who enters their life.
In the first post of this series, I said that I was looking at the terms Scriptures, Bible, New Testament, Gospels, and gospel. In the next post, I looked at various uses of the term “Scriptures” in the New Testament. Then, I explained how I use the terms “Scriptures,” “Bible,” “New Testament,” and “Gospels” and explained why I use the terms that way. After that, I looked at the nature(s) of the “the gospel” and began wondering how it relates to the Scriptures (or the New Testament or the Gospels).
As I said in the previous post, the term “gospel” could have several different referents in Scripture, and each occurrence should be considered in context. However, for the most part, I think the term “gospel” refers to the message of God’s salvation. Obviously, there are many, many aspects of that message, but they all refer to same message.
One passage in particular in the New Testament (which actually refers back to the Old Testament) indicates that the gospel refers to the message of God salvation.
In Romans 10, Paul is writing about salvation and the gospel. At one point, he writes:
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.(Romans 10:13-17 ESV)
In the quotation, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”, the phrase “preach/proclaim the good news” is from the Greek verb εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizo – “to proclaim good news”), and it is a quotation from Isaiah. The following verse in Romans (“But they have not all obeyed the gospel”) indicates that Paul is talking about “the gospel,” and he believes that Isaiah’s statement relates to “the gospel.”
Here is the passage from Isaiah:
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice;
together they sing for joy;
for eye to eye they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you waste places of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:7-10 ESV)
In the immediate context of this passage from Isaiah, it’s clear that the “good news” is about God’s deliverance of Jerusalem and Israel after the Jews are exiled. But, the end of the passage (and Paul’s application) indicates that it has a broader and more eternal meaning as well.
What is the point of Isaiah’s passage (a passage that Paul referred to)? It refers to a message delivered by the watchmen that God is bringing salvation to his people. That is the “good news”… the gospel.
Like I said, we see different descriptions and aspects of this message throughout the New Testament. But, the New Testament authors never identify their writings as “the gospel” themselves. (The closest is Mark, who begins his books with, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God…” and then quotes Isaiah again.)
So, there are many ways to proclaim this message, and many aspects of this message that can be described. It’s possible to focus on Jesus Christ as the one who actually bring salvation, or his death, burial, and resurrection as the means through which God’s salvation is realized. Similarly, we can talk about mystery (that has now been revealed) of how God planned to save the Gentiles. Each of these could be considered “the gospel” because they refer to the message of God’s salvation.
If the gospel is the message of God’s salvation, then it is by nature different from the Scriptures, the Bible, the New Testament, and the Gospels, all of which refer to specific writings. Those writings may contain descriptions and references to the gospel (as a message), but they are not the message themselves.