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What is the Gospel?

From ReKnew and Roger Oleson What is the Gospel? 04 Nov 2015

Our friend Roger Olson raised this question in response to accusations by Calvinists that those who espouse Arminianism do not “preach the gospel.” The same argument has been made about Open Theists. Olson writes:

The complete gospel is communicated in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” Every true, classical, historical Arminian of the heart (evangelical Arminian) believes and preaches this just as fervently and faithfully as any Calvinist does.

The problem begins to appear when Calvinists (and some Lutherans) begin to pack a systematic theology, that of Calvin, Edwards and Hodge, into that passage saying that it requires monergism. It simply does not.

To read the rest of Roger’s post click herehttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/11/what-is-a-complete-gospel/. - See more at: http://reknew.org/2015/11/what-is-the-gospel/#sthash.7ksoDncq.dpuf

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Dr. Witherington III on Women In Ministry

I just finished a two-part sermon on 1 Timothy 1.8-15 and leaned heavily on Dr Witherington, NT Wright and Philip Towner. Here is Witherington's summary. Or go listen to the series on www.bayshoresrq.org where I used a lot of his material.

Why Arguments Against Women in Ministry Aren’t Biblical June 2, 2015 by Ben Witherington

bwiii (This is a re-post of a piece I wrote for Beliefnet many years ago, back by popular demand. BW3)

Most of you who know me, know that I did my doctoral thesis on women in the NT with C.K. Barrett at the University of Durham in England. My first three published scholarly books were on this very subject. One of the reasons I did that thirty some years ago was because of the controversy that raged then over the issue of women in ministry, and more particularly women as pulpit ministers and senior pastors. Never mind that the Bible does not have categories like ‘senior pastor’ or ‘pulpit minister’, the NT has been used over and over again to justify the suppression of women in ministry— and as I was to discover through years of research and study, without Biblical justification. Now of course equally sincere Christians may disagree on this matter, but the disagreements should be on the basis of sound exegesis of Biblical texts, not emotions, rhetoric, mere church polity, dubious hermeneutics and the like.

So in this post I am going to deal with the usual objections to women in ministry, one by one. Some of these objections come out of a high church tradition, some tend to come from low church traditions, some are Catholic/Orthodox some are Protestant, but we will take on a sampling of them all without trying to be exhaustive or exhausting.

1) Women can’t be ministers, because only males can be priests offering the sacrifice of the Mass etc. The root problem with this argument is that the NT is perfectly clear that apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, elders, deacons ARE NOT PRIESTS IN THE NT. There is no need for a separate order of priests in the NT because Christ’s sacrifice made obsolete the entire OT sacerdotal system of priests, temples and sacrifices. The only priesthoods we hear about in the NT are: 1) the priesthood of all believers, which of course includes women, and 2) the heavenly high priesthood of Christ (see Hebrews). There is no new priesthood between these two carried over from the OT or inaugurated in the NT era. Indeed the whole language of sacrifice and temple is spiritualized in the NT to refer to our offering of ourselves or our praise to God, and the Temple is described in various places in the NT (cf. 1 Cor. 3-6), as either the believer’s body, or the whole community of Christ in which Christ and the Spirit dwell. The problem here is essentially a hermeneutical one. Somewhere along the way about the time when the church became a licit religion under Constantine the OT hermeneutic took over, a hermeneutic which saw churches as temples, the Lord’s Supper as a sacrifice, ministers as priests, the Lord’s Day as the sabbath, and so on. This did a grave dis-service to the newnness of the new covenant and its facets and features, and the net result was an exclusion of women from various ministries, on grounds the writers of the NT would have rejected outright.

2) Women can’t be ministers because then they would have headship over men, including their husbands— and this will never do, and is a violation of the household codes in the NT. This argument is often complex and at the heart of it is an essential confusion of what the NT says about order in the physical family and home, and order in the family of faith, wherever it may meet. It is certainly true that texts like Col.3-4 and Ephes. 5-6 and other texts in 1 Pet. for example do talk about the structure of the physical family. As I have argued at length, the patriarchal family was the existing reality in the NT world, and what you discover when you compare what is in the NT and what is outside the NT, is that Paul and others are working hard to change the existing structures in a more Christian direction. Paul, for example, has to start with his audience where they are, and then persuade them to change. And you can see this process at work in Philemon, Colossians, and Ephesians. For example, though the language of headship and submission is certainly used in these texts the trajectory of the argument is intended to: 1) place more and more strictures on the head of the household to limit his power and the way he relates to his wife, his children and his slaves; 2) make the head of the household aware that women, children and slaves are in fact persons created in God’s image, not chattel or property. This becomes especially clear in Philemon when Paul urges Philemon to manumit Onesimus on the basis of the fact that he is “no longer a slave, but rather a brother in Christ”. Paul is working to place the leaven of the Gospel into pre-existing relationships and change them. Similarly with the roles of husbands and wives, in Ephes. 5.21ff. Paul calls all Christians to mutual submission to each other, one form of which is wives to husbands, and then the exhortation ‘husbands love your wives as Christ did the church, giving himself….’ can be seen for what it is— a form of self-sacrificial submission and service. Submission is no longer gender specific or unilateral as Paul offers third order moral discourse here, working for change (see my commentary on Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon– Eerdmans). Furthermore, we need to keep steadily in mind that what determines or should determine the leadership structures in the church is not gender but rather gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. The family of faith is not identical with the physical family, and gender is no determinant of roles in it. Gender of course does affect some roles in the Christian family, but that is irrelevant when it comes to the discussion of the leadership structure of the church. This is why we should not be surprised to find even in Paul’s letters examples of women teachers, evangelist, prophetesses, deacons, and apostles. Paul is not one who is interested in baptizing the existing fallen patriarchal order and calling it good. One of the tell tale signs of Paul’s views on such matters can be seen in what he says about baptism— it is not a gender specific sign that we have for the new covenant unlike the one for the old covenant, and Paul adds that in Christ there is no ‘male and female’ just as there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free. The implications of this are enormous. The change in the covenant sign signals the change in the nature of the covenant when it comes to men and women.

3) Women can’t be Christian ministers because specific passages in the NT prohibit it. Here, especially for very conservative Protestants is the nub of the matter. It is believed that 1 Cor. 14.33b-36 and 1 Tim. 2.8-15 prohibit women from teaching and preaching in the church. I will not bring up the hypocrisy of some of these arguments that make nice distinctions like— “its o.k. for women to teach or lead a Bible study in the home, but not in the church building.’ (this word just in– there were no church buildings in the NT era, they met in homes!), or even worse ‘its o.k. for women to teach and preach on the mission field where it’s necessary, but not here in America where it isn’t.’ Again the logic here is completely bogus and not based on anything in Scripture at all. But what about those texts?

1 Cor. 14.33b-36 (assuming that it is an original part of this letter, which many scholars doubt on textual grounds. I disagree with the doubters) is part of a large problem solving letter. Paul is correcting problems as they arise in the house churches in Corinth. One such problem is caused by some women, apparently just some wives, who are interrupting the time of prophesying by asking questions. Now Paul has already said in 1 Cor. 11 that women are allowed to pray and prophesy in Christian worship if they wear headcoverings to hide their ‘glory’ (i.e. hair), since only God’s glory should be visible in worship, and he is not reneging on that permission in 1 Cor. 14.33b-36. The largely Gentile congregation in Corinth brought with them into the church their pre-existing assumptions about prophecy and what was appropriate when approaching a prophet or prophetess. The oracle at nearby Delphi for example was a consultative prophetess. People would go to her to ask questions like— Should I marry this man, or Should I buy this land etc. and the oracle would give an answer. Thus it was natural for some Corinthians to think that when prophets spoke in their assemblies, they had a right to ask them questions. Paul’s response is no— “worship time is not Q+A time, and you are interrupting the prophets. If you have questions asks your man (probably husband) at home. There is a time and place for such questions, but Christian worship isn’t it. The reason Paul corrects women/wives in this case is not because they are women but because they are in this instance causing this problem, of course. A couple of other points about this text need to be noted: 1) the text says nothing about women submitting to men. The call here is for these women to be silent and in submission as even the Law says. O.K. where in the OT is there a commandment for women to be silent and submit to men? Answer NOWHERE. Its not in the Pentateuch at all, or for that matter elsewhere. What Paul is talking about is being silent in the presence of God and listening to his inspired words, in this case coming from the prophets and prophetesses! “The Lord is in his holy temple, let all the earth keep silence (and listen)”… and be in submission to God’s teaching.

What about 1 Tim. 2.8-15? This is sometimes, wrongly, seen as the ultimate proof that women should not be ministers. But again this ignores the context and nuances of the text, which of course is the major problem with proof-texting anyway. Paul here is giving Timothy some instructions about how to handle his fledgling new converts probably in Ephesus (see my commentary on the Pastoral Epistles– Letters and Homilies for Gentile Christians Vol. One IVP). Now the problem as it surfaces in 1 Tim. 2.8-15 clearly has to do with particular women, high status women who have fancy clothes and hairstyles and are expecting right off the bat to be teachers of one and all in the church. The proof that this is once more a corrective passage, dealing with problems is seen from the outset— First Paul corrects grumbling men whom he wants to pray, then he corrects these high status women. Paul is an equal opportunity corrector of men and women when they are in error. In regard to his correction of women, something needs to be said about high status women in cities like Ephesus. What we know about such women is that they played vital roles in the Greco-Roman religious festivals, temples, worship services. They were priestesses, they were prophetesses, they were teachers, healers, keepers of the eternal flame, etc. It is then not surprising that such high status women would expect to be able, once they converted to Christ, to do the same sorts of things in the church. The problem was, they needed to be properly instructed and learn before they began to instruct others, whether male or female. This is a good principle for all of us to follow. I once had a student who was getting frustrated in a seminary class because of all that he was required to learn, much of which he thought was unnecessary, and he came up to me and said— “I don’t know why I need to learn all this stuff first. Why I can just get up in the pulpit and the Spirit will give me utterance.” I replied– “Yes Charlie, you can do that, but its a pity you aren’t giving the Holy Spirit more to work with!” Beware of using the Holy Spirit as a labor saving device. In essence, Paul is saying the same thing to these women in Ephesus— they need to learn before they teach.

Here are some details about the exegesis of 1 Tim. 2.8-15. Once again nothing is said about women submitting to men here. The Greek is clear enough. Here the word for ‘quietness’ is used rather than the word for silence which we find in 1 Cor. 14, and once again the issue is their being in submission to the authoritative teaching of Timothy and others. Secondly the Greek verb “I am not now permitting” as Phil Payne has shown over and over again, is not a verb that implies an infinite extension of this refusal to permit. It means what it says “I am not presently permitting…” Why not? Because the women needed to learn before they taught. Thirdly, the Greek, since we are dealing with a text where a correction of behavior is being offered should be translated as follows “I am not currently permitting women (in this case the women referred to with the hairdos and bling and expensive attire) to teach or usurp authority over the (authorized) men. This is a prohibition of an abuse of a privilege, It does not rule out the possibility of a later authorization of a proper use of the privilege of offering Christian teaching, indeed we hear elsewhere in the Pastorals about more mature Christian women doing some teaching. The verb authenteo here is a rare one, meaning either to exercise authority, or to usurp authority, and it occurs only here in the NT. Here is a good example of why you can’t study the language of the Bible in isolation from its larger context, in this case the context of usage elsewhere in Greek. Elsewhere, in a corrective context the verb refers to an abuse of power, a usurping of some role or function that others have. It does here as well.

Finally, what about the argument from creation, from the story of Eve? Paul is assuming some in his audience know the story very well. The story is as follows in the Hebrew— only Adam is instructed about the prohibition in regard to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and it was his duty to properly instruct Eve, as she was not around when that prohibition was given. As the story develops, it is clear enough that Eve had not been properly instructed. She talks about not touching the fruit of the tree, which was not part of the original prohibition. Now the very verb ‘deceived’ here is an important one, mainly used in Paul in connection with Eve and the Fall. A person who is not properly instructed, is easily deceived, and may take action that is disastrous. Such was the case with Eve. She is the perfect example to give to the high status women in Ephesus– they needed to properly be instructed before they took any action. I would remind you as well that on a literal reading of the Genesis story, Adam was right there with Eve on this occasion and could have and should have stopped her from picking the fruit, but he did not do so. Eve plucked the fruit, and Adam dropped the ball as the authoritative teacher for the occasion. This is no doubt why it is Adam who is blamed for the Fall in Rom. 5.12-21. Paul then goes on to offer an alternative— “but now women shall be saved by the child-bearing” or possibly it reads “women shall be kept safe through the child-bearing”. What Paul is certainly not doing here is talking about salvation for women by baby-making!! So either of the two renderings I suggested are possible. I tend to favor the interpretation that the definite article before childbearing points to a specific birth— Jesus’ by means of Mary. So Mary is Eve in reverse. She obeys the voice of the angel, is the handmaiden of the Lord, unlike Eve. The other possibility is that Paul is saying that the curse on women (pain and danger in child-bearing) can be reversed in Christ if they remain faithful Christians and trust the Lord. In either case, this text is not a prohibition of all women in all times in all situations preaching and teaching. It is a very specific prohibition, and doubtless Paul would say the same thing to women or men today who try to teach or preach the Word of God without properly learning it first!! One more thing about the Genesis story. The author tells us that the effects of the Fall is patriarchy. It was not God original creation order design. The text tells us that part of the original curse (not the original blessing) on Eve will be “your desire will be for your husband, and he will lord it over you!!” So to love and to cherish degenerates into to desire and dominate!!! This is the effect of sin on the relationship, not inherent gender properties or qualities of the relationship.

One more thing, since we are talking about those texts in the Pastoral Epistles. Sometimes you hear the argument that since it is assumed in 1 Timothy that the elders will be men who are faithful to their one and only wives, that this must signal that only men should be elders in churches. This is totally forgetting that Paul is speaking as a missionary into a strongly patriarchal cultural setting whether in Ephesus or on Crete, and his principle is to start where the people already are, not where he would like them to be. This means starting with the existing male leadership structure in the culture until the leaven of the Gospel can fully do its work and change things from the inside out. So quite naturally, it is men that Timothy and Titus are going to appoint first as leaders to these brand new church plants. This does not mean it needs always and forever to be that way, but the new converts would have to be convinced by loving persuasion that it was o.k. for women to fill such roles. You can see however how Paul is already beginning to push in that direction because in Rom. 16 he mentions a woman leader named Phoebe who is a deacon in the Corinthian churches, and probably there is a reference to women deacons in the Pastoral Epistles discussions about elders and deacons as well. As I said before, you have to not just evaluate what Paul says, but read it in its cultural context, and ask what sort of changes is Paul trying to make in relationships as he applies the Gospel to the situation?

As I have learned over many years…. the problem in the church is not strong and gifted women. We need all those we can get, and were it not for them, many churches would have closed long ago. I remember so vividly meeting the babooshkas– the grandmothers in the Moscow Baptist Church, who had stopped Stalin from closing the church by standing in the door and not letting his troops enter and close it down. Thank God for strong, gifted women in the church. No, the problem in the church is not strong women, but rather weak men who feel threatened by strong women, and have tried various means, even by dubious exegesis to prohibit them from exercising their gifts and graces in the church.

If you want more along these lines, see my commentaries or my lay person’s summary Women and the Genesis of Christianity, (Cambridge Press). Enough said.

Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/bibleandculture/2009/10/why-arguments-against-women-in-ministry-arent-biblical.html#QABUb9JGAeDMvX4H.99

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International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Church Nov 1st and 8th

IDOP Video 2015 from IDOP on Vimeo.

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Women in Ministry? Don’t Submit to a Woman

Even if we read the "do not permit to hold authority over" from 1 Timothy 1 2.12 as literal and universal for all time and places, we still have the situation of the charismatic view of ministry. That view is that the Holy Spirit gives people gifts, calls and empowers. We know from Joel, Luke-Acts and Paul the Holy Spirit will empower men, women, old, young, rich and poor. The Holy Spirit is not interested in (limiting his activity by) the particular state we were born into - gender, class, race, social-status (even past or current sin - the Spirit knows our possibilities in Christ and impact).

When a person is operating in a spiritual gift - even teaching - they are not simply operating in their own authority. But in the servant leadership, power-under, upside-down anointing of the Holy Spirit. You are not "under the authority" of simply a man or women, but under the authority of the Spirit of God working in that person. Dirt and divinity - stop confusing the two and missing the many leadership gifts of women and men. I want to have leaders in my life in the church who are not simply operating out of their natural talent and acquired skill based authority, certainly not authority based on their gender. But first operating out of the authority of the gifting of the Holy Spirit that comes through a living relationship with Jesus, the scriptures and growing in wisdom. (Assuming a level of health, humility and a proper local church to discern in). In that you are not in submission to a mere woman or man - but to the grace of God working in them.

So yes, men do not submit to women in leadership because they are a woman (particularly if they are wrapped up into local politics, covenant-destroying teaching and heretical cults like in Ephesus). Women do not submit to men in leadership simply because they are a man. Rather submit to the grace of God that comes through anointed people in leadership. Submit one to another to honor the Spirit of God in one another and each spiritual gift given.

Be careful then to not grieve the Spirit at work in a man or woman's life. The Pharisees did this. Rather stand back and under the authority of Jesus' spirit (Matthew 7.29 comes to mind here BTW) in your brother or sister. Be concerned about false teaching against the Gospel - discern that well.

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Science, Christianity and The Lost World of Adam and Eve

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fn1ESgtNi4 John H. Walton, Ph.D., is Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and also taught at Moody Bible Institute for 20 years. He received his Ph.D. in Hebrew and Cognate Studies from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and has used his academic training to focus his attention on comparing the culture and literature of the Bible and the ancient Near East. He is author or co-author to more than 20 books

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The Role of A Pastor

I was asked the other night if I believe the pastor's role is shepherding. A great question. My quick response was "no". Because what I've learned is that most people do not have a very deep scriptural grasp of the role of a pastor. Shepherd does not carry the same freight as it did in the middle eastern agricultural world. We are far to removed to connect all the dots that need to be connected.

Yes the word "pastor" is literally "shepherd". However Ephesian 4 actually puts pastor and teacher together. To better translate it would be "pastor-teacher." The overall "shepherding" is actually the role of all leaders/elders. The main pastor that is compensated is done so for their leadership role and particularly in the pastor-teacher role.

That person should model and train shepherding for all the elders and leaders in the church - but not literally do it all themselves. The role of a paid lead pastor is not a personal chaplain for everyone in the church. That would actually be neglecting the spiritual gift mix and leadership gifts that a pastor in a lead role should be using.

Here is a very good article on it (http://www.bibleanswerstand.org/pastors.htm).

Now I would disagree here and there with some points. But the role of pastor-teacher (Eph. 4) is equipping and teaching. That is the primary way a lead pastor should function. Now of course in the relationships with leaders and new believers they should be walking the path of discipleship with them and modeling shepherding aspects to the leaders can be ministered to and equipped to pastor in the care capacity throughout the whole church. Which no one person can do.

But if someone means the lead pastor should be a "chaplain" when they say "shepherding" this would not be a main way the pastor/lead pastor should do their role based on the New Testament. Seminaries that trained pastors primarily as pastor-chaplain do not have good outcomes when these folks step into lead pastor/elder roles.

BTW: I am blessing to pastor a great church that I'm getting to know more and more. ___

Here is a great article from the C&MA on church structure FYI:

STATEMENT ON CHURCH GOVERNMENT he following instructional statement was prepared at the direction of the 1980 General Council (Hartford, Connecticut) and adopted at the 1981 General Council (Anaheim,California).

The early leaders of The Christian and Missionary Alliance sensed a minimal need for a thoroughly defined structure of government. However, through years of growth and God’s blessing, The Christian and Missionary Alliance developed from a nonecclesiastical structure to that of an ecclesiastical one, from a missionary society or fraternal union of believers to that of a denomination.

This statement lays a foundation for strengthening the role of elders, allows for local adaptation in the midst of diversity that has always characterized The Christian and Missionary Alliance, and assures the church of leadership that meets the biblical standard.

AN INSTRUCTIONAL STATEMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN AND MISSIONARY ALLIANCE It is recognized by all that one of the significant ways in which churches differ is in the area of church government. Differences of opinion are deep-rooted and most systems of church government claim some support from Scripture while acknowledging the molding influence of customs and tradition.

In the midst of such diversity the following instructional statement seeks to develop a proper understanding of the biblical evidence regarding church government, what structures it requires, permits, or forbids, and to delineate its application in a Christian and Missionary Alliance form of government.

1. Biblical and Background Evidence
a. Old Testament. With the exception of the appointment of “able men out of all Israel” by Moses to be “rulers” (Exodus 18:25), the appointment of elders is not described in the Old Testament. Elders in the Old Testament bore office with diverse functions:
representative (Leviticus 4:15, Exodus 3:16–18), judicial (Deuteronomy 21:18–21), pastoral (Deuteronomy 27:1, 31:9), and political (2 Samuel 5:3). Thus they shared broad power with king (1 Kings 20:78) and priest (Deuteronomy 31:9). Deacons, on the other hand, are not found in the Old Testament, although functions normally associated with them are: benevolence (Deuteronomy 14:28–29) and care of property (Numbers 4).
b. Synagogue. In addition to the one Temple in Jerusalem from the Babylonian exile onward, the synagogue, as a house of prayer and religious instruction, became a widespread institution wherever Jews were dispersed with some cities having many synagogues. The synagogue was under the management of “elders” (Luke 7:1–5) who seem to have had disciplinary and administrative authority as well as religious.

The “ruler” of the synagogue (more than one in large congregations, Acts 13:15) had charge of the service, directing it himself or assigning functions to others. Another synagogue functionary was the “attendant(s)” or servant(s) whose work included caring for the building, carrying the Scriptures to the reader (Luke 4:17–20), scourging an erring member, and possibly offering elementary instruction. Other more temporary positions included “deputies” and “interpreters” who assisted in the service and “almoners” for collection of money and distribution to the needy.
c. New Testament. Because of their heritage, New Testament leaders likely knew and used the synagogue models for the organization of the church, further supported by models deriving from the Hellenistic world. This might explain the fact that the New Testament gives no historical record of the institution of the eldership as it does with the Seven (Acts 6). Much of the church’s organization is assumed in the New Testament rather than argued. Such an assumption of development would explain Paul’s earlier lack of instruction on deacons (Acts 14:23) compared with his later teaching (1 Timothy 3:8–13).

However, development in the church’s organization is found in the New Testament. (1) Origins. Christian elders are first mentioned in Acts 11:30 as an existing institution. It is possible that some of the first Christians were already (Jewish) elders and were continued in a similar capacity in the early church. The office of deacon is generally understood to have originated, directly or indirectly, with the appointment of the Seven (Acts 6) to administer the supplying of food to the Greek-speaking Christian widows. Throughout the Book of Acts the elders are seen to be leaders of the church (Acts 14:23, 15:2, 20:17, 21:18).

(2) Office/Function. Although the New Testament shows no absolute distinction between offices (orders) and functions, a relative distinction can be drawn whereby an office is acknowledged to be more generally operational and more permanent. Thus the early local church leadership was comprised of elders and deacons. A pastor is essentially a ruling elder whose primary ministry is preaching and teaching and who is therefore worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17).

(3) Terminology. The terms most obviously used to designate office/functions in the local church are: episkopos (overseer, bishop, Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:2), diakonos (servant, minister, deacon, 1 Timothy 3:8), presbuteros (elder, Acts 14:23, 20:17, Titus 1:6), and poimen (shepherd, pastor, Ephesians 4:11). There are also the participles proistamenos (one standing before, 1 Thessalonians 5:12) and hegoumenos (one ruling, Hebrews 13:7).

Many of these terms, however, do not necessarily refer to different positions.

Particularly, there is overlap between overseer, elder, and shepherd (Acts 20:17, 28, Titus 1:5–7), which refer in different ways to the same position. The precise function of this elder-overseer-shepherd cannot be arrived at merely on the terms themselves, the emphasis of which is debatable. One must have recourse to the lists of qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:5–9 and the descriptions of their activities in Acts, 1 Peter 5:1–3, and other passages.

(4) Lists of Qualifications. The lists of qualifications for elder/overseer (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1) stress primarily spiritual and personal qualities but also include teaching abilities related to the edification of believers. These lists are best seen as selective rather than exhaustive and the qualities as overlapping. The qualities are also general, being similar to qualities expected in leaders in the secular sphere, stressing the sort of person who should serve. People with all these qualities in a high degree were as hard to find then as now.

(5) Descriptive Passages. The descriptions of the work of elders include: protecting (Acts 20:28–31), shepherding (Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:1–3), teaching (Titus 1:9), anointing the sick (James 5:14), representing the congregation (Acts 11:30), and making policy decisions (Acts 15:6, 22).

(6) Plurality of Elders. There is New Testament evidence of a plurality of elders in a city (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5), but the evidence is not sufficient to determine whether these functioned as individual leaders of house-churches, as a citywide board, or both.

There seems to be in the New Testament a growing pattern of one elder in a community as head of a board of elders (1 Timothy 5:17), something like the pastor of today.

(7) Method of Selection. It is uncertain whether the selection of elders was by election and if so, by whom. The term used in Acts 14:23 originally implied election to office, but the New Testament period had the more general meaning “appoint.” Nor is it clear whether the laying on of hands by the elders (1 Timothy 4:14) was essentially election or “ratification” of an election or appointment made by others. Moreover, it is not clear whether elders were always installed by laying on of hands. Conversely, the principle of popular choice of church leaders is sometimes evidenced in the New Testament (Acts 1:23, 6:1–6).

(8) Ordination. Ordination is the church’s public recognition of the call from God, distinct from human vocational choice, to a man for a lifetime ministry, through speech and exemplary lifestyle, of preaching and teaching the Word of God, protecting God’s people from spiritual enemies and doctrinal heresies, overseeing and promoting the spiritual development of God’s people, and equipping God’s people to fulfill the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations” for the purposes of knowing and glorifying God by obeying His will and building His Kingdom. The occasion for setting men apart for such ministry is the church’s affirmation of thecandidate’s faithful completion of preparation for ordination through approved education, in-service training, field experience with mentoring for a minimum of two years, and examination by a qualified council of peers.

(9) Deacon. The role of the deacon is more difficult to define partly because the word is often used in a very general sense (servant). Traditionally, deacons, thought to have originated with the Seven (Acts 6), are entrusted with ministries of benevolence. They may be considered caretakers of property comparable to the secondary synagogue officials. Since many of the desired qualities are spiritual and personal (1 Timothy 3:8–13), a deacon’s ministry is also partly pastoral.

(10) Deaconess. Recognition of the position of deaconess in the New Testament rests primarily on 1 Timothy 3:11. The description of Phoebe in Romans 16:1 is unclear as to whether it refers specifically to an office. It is uncertain whether 1 Timothy 3:11 refers to deaconesses or to wives of deacons. If it does refer to deaconesses, these would be church leaders comparable to deacons and presumably with comparable functions.

(11) Amenability. The New Testament is not clear on the question of the relationship between a congregation and its leaders. Church leaders have both authority over (1 Thessalonians 5:12) and responsibility to serve (cf. 2 Corinthians 4–5) their flock. Similarly, Christians are exhorted to obey their leaders (Hebrews 13:17) but are also instructed to serve the Lord in all good conscience (Acts 23:1, 5:29, Galatians 2:11).

The New Testament does not resolve this tension. It is clear, however, that Christ is the Lord of the Church and that He has both provided for the exercise of power by the appointment of church leaders and ordered that such leaders exercise their power in subordination to His Word (1 Peter 5:3).

2. Prescriptive Nature of the Evidence. The biblical patterns of local church organization, particularly in reference to its leadership, are to be seen as prescriptive and not merely as descriptive. Generally evangelical interpreters recognize some prescriptive element (spiritual qualifications) so that the matter is better stated in terms of its extent. The position here is that the New Testament prescribes the principles, not necessarily every detail, of church organization.

a. Both the nature of the Bible and the nature of the Church would seem to support this conclusion.

(1) The Bible is the rule of faith and practice. This fact constitutes a reason to accept its descriptions of certain features of church organization as normative unless there are compelling reasons to feel that they are not. The burden of proof rests on those who hold that the patterns are merely descriptive.

(2) The same conclusion is supported by the nature of the Church. Because the Church is a divinely originated institution, one could expect that basic provision be made in Scripture for its effective operation and government.

b. There are passages in the New Testament which do, in fact, prescribe features of church government. Titus is told to install elders in the churches of Crete (Titus 1:5). Paul and Barnabas supervised the appointment of elders in every city (Acts 14:23).

c. It can be plausibly argued that the reason why the New Testament is not more explicit in regard to church government is that it presupposes, as prescriptive, familiar principles of organization in use in the Old Testament, the synagogue, and perhaps in Hellenistic institutions.

d. Finally, the early postapostolic church understood the positions of overseer and deacon to be prescriptive.

3. Forms of Church Government. Beyond the principles enunciated in Scripture, the Church has felt at liberty to develop structures which are functional, appropriate to culture, and not in conflict with biblical principles. Thus there have arisen various historical forms of church government which have attempted to address two concerns: the relationship between local congregations and the duties and relationships of leaders within a local congregation.

a. In regard to relationships between local congregations the issue is the vesting of authority.

(1) Episcopal: local church is under the control of higher authorities.

(2) Presbyterian: local church vests some of its authority in higher authorities.

(3) Congregation: local church autonomy is recognized with limited relationship between local churches.

b. In regard to structures within the local church, the forms of government are distinguished by the number of elders and the way responsibilities are shared.

(1) In one system there is one elder, called the minister (some Congregational), priest, or rector (Episcopal).

(2) In another there is plurality of elders, one of these being a teaching elder or minister (Presbyterian).

(3) In a third system there is plurality of elders with none as minister (Plymouth Brethren).

In all systems the elder(s) has control over the spiritual affairs and in almost all cases has oversight in the temporal affairs of the church, which are often then carried out by a lower body. Thus deacons are charged with administering temporal affairs but sometimes (Episcopal, some Congregational) are entrusted with some spiritual affairs as well.4. Form of Government for The Christian and Missionary Alliance.

a. Type of Government. On the basis of the biblical evidence, historical precedent, and practical considerations, The Christian and Missionary Alliance recognizes a form of government which is a combination of elements of the Congregational and Presbyterian systems. Thus local churches are not wholly entities unto themselves but are externally related through the district and national organizations and are amenable to these authorities in such areas as the ownership and transfer of property and the calling of a pastor. On the other hand, within definite bounds, there is considerable selfdetermination. Internally, the government is through elected representatives (governance authority).

b. Amenability. In Christian and Missionary Alliance local churches all committees and organizations other than the Nominating Committee are amenable to the collective oversight of the elders as expressed through the governance authority. The governance authority is in turn amenable to the congregation and the district superintendent as constitutionally defined. Thus the powers assigned to the governance authority are to call a pastor (in cooperation with the district superintendent), conduct the affairs of the church between annual meetings, call special meetings of the church, elect two members of the Nominating Committee, and direct the work of the trustees; they may ask for the resignation of the pastor in consultation with the district superintendent. The powers assigned to the congregation are to elect its leadership, transfer property (in cooperation with the district superintendent), elect two members of the Nominating Committee, pass bylaws, and direct the work of the trustees. In addition, certain responsibilities are assigned to the elders: membership, discipline, and care of the congregation. Thus while the lines of amenability are varied, the main responsibility of the governance authority to the congregation is to fulfill the trust placed in it under the constitution and bylaws.

c. Orders of Ministry. The Christian and Missionary Alliance issues credentials in the following categories:

(1) License
(a) Ordained/Consecrated Official Worker
(b) Unordained/Non-Consecrated Official Worker
(c) Provisional Official Worker
(d) Lay Minister
(2) Certificate
(a) Vocational
(b) Christian Worker

At the local level there are pastors, elders, deacons, deaconesses, and where required by law, trustees.

d. Local Church. All church leaders should satisfy scriptural standards.

(1) Election. Church leaders are elected at the annual meeting by the congregation. Their term of office is established by the local church bylaws. The bylaws may also establish whether or not they may succeed themselves in office and whether or not terms of office are staggered.
(2) Commissioning. New church leaders may be commissioned through the laying on of hands by the elders.
(3) Qualifications. The qualifications of all officers, elders, deacons, and governance authority members are set out in 1 Timothy 3:1–13 and Titus 1:6–9.
(4) Duties. The duties of leaders are set forth in the Uniform Constitution for Accredited Churches, and the local church bylaws may add to or refine those duties.
(5) Women. Women may fulfill any function in the local church which the senior pastor and elders may choose to delegate to them consistent with the Uniform Constitution for Accredited Churches and may properly engage in any kind of ministry except that which involves elder authority.

5. Model Bylaws. Model Bylaws, which include three different governmental models, are available in this Manual.

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Pray for Israel Peace – local event

Prayer for Israel Greetings Sisters & Brothers for Peace in Jerusalem and our nation and world... Our Sarasota/Manatee Jewish Community including several Temples and the Jewish Federation and many other local organizations, are asking us to join them this coming Tuesday, October 27th, at 5:30 pm in J.D. Hamel Park to Rally for Peace & Prayer. The Sarasota Ministerial Association Board met yesterday and the quorum present unanimously voted to support and participate in the Rally. The hope and prayer is for this to be an interfaith gathering of solidarity for an end to hatred and a call for peace and prayer. Please see the attached flyers and invite your congregations and organization members and friends to come and be in solidarity for peace. Chaplain Tom Pfaff, Chair Sarasota Ministerial Association 941-724-5018

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Play and Jose

Ive been writing on the theology of play. We experience the shift of time, emotion and empowerment in play. Art and sports can be two "common grace" places to experience it. People can go deeper with it in worship empowered by the Holy Spirit. Jose's act was fully embracing the larger spirit in play. Would to God more Christians responded that way to our cooperating work and play in worship with the Holy Spirit. http://mlb.nbcsports.com/2015/10/15/jose-bautista-does-not-need-to-calm-that-down-and-respect-the-game/ "If you are the sort of person who thinks that such a thing cannot be celebrated, you should just give up trying to find happiness in life, consult an actuary about exactly how much time you have left until you die and optimize your investments accordingly. And please, as you do so, be sure your door is closed and your curtains are drawn because the very sight of such a joyless figure as yourself will bring the rest of humanity down."

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Zahnd on “Columbus Day”

http://brianzahnd.com/2015/10/columbus-day-2/ Columbus Day? Brian Zahnd It’s Columbus Day in America. Well, depending on where you live. South Dakota, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii don’t recognize Columbus Day. Where Native Americans still have a fairly visible presence Columbus Day can be a bit awkward. In South Dakota today is a state holiday — “Native American Day.” Growing up in Missouri I knew Columbus Day as the celebration of the “discovery” of America. Which lets slip the obvious fact that the story is being told from a European vantage point. When I arrived in Portugal for the first time a few years ago I hardly “discovered” Portugal. Yet from my perspective I was making a new discovery. (I did refrain from claiming to now own Portugal.) Contrary to what you may have thought, Columbus did not arrive on the shores of an empty wilderness, but on the shores of a world more populous than Europe. Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) was larger than any European city. But armed with guns, steel, and germs, and driven by the conquistador’s lust for gold and slaves, the population of the Americas was decimated. Columbus discovered America like that asteroid discovered the dinosaurs.... read the rest here

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Christians need to embrace changing family definition…


By Laura Kenna

No one is from here.

It’s a saying commonly heard in Washington, D.C., a place with changing political administrations, students and interns who come and go, and a workforce of upwardly mobile professionals.

It seems like so many people here are either brand-new to the area or on their way out. A city report this year found that, according to tax rolls, fewer than 1 in 4 people who moved to the District a decade ago remained residents eight years later.

In such a transient place, the church’s special role in creating a sense of home is tangible. Our relatives are far away. We may feel isolated, lonely, or overwhelmed. Through my church community, I quickly discovered an uncomfortable yet extraordinarily comforting fact: My husband and kids and distant relatives aren't enough. I must depend the friends I make, the people around me, as our “practical family.”

When babies arrive, parents fly in for a visit, but they aren’t on hand to watch your older kid when you go into labor. That’s what practical family is for. When your apartment doesn’t have room for a blow-up mattress for your sister to come stay, you call someone from the congregation. The same when your car battery dies in a parking garage, when it’s your birthday, when you need a ride to the ER, or when you don’t land the big promotion.

In other settings, these responsibilities fall to family or lifelong friends, but my husband, my kids, and I don’t have that support network here. Instead, the people God put next to us become the family we need for getting through hard times, for celebrating everyday joys, and for learning to live out our faith. Our practical family is not only a help for our physical needs but also spiritual ones, offering discernment in job situations, marital counseling, and parenting wisdom.

It runs counter to the American nuclear family, but in three of the four Gospels, Jesus affirms that the faithful are a truer family than our biological ones. When Mary and his brothers arrive, Jesus responds, “‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother’” (Mark 3:33-35 cf. Matt. 12:46-50 and Luke 8:20-21).

In John, the only Gospel to omit that story, Jesus leaves his biological mother in the care of his disciple John (19:26-27). Though Mary has other sons, Jesus invites his friend into a special relationship with his mother, for him to adopt her and she him.

Similarly, one way Christians can become “practical family” for each other is through naming godparents—especially ones who aren’t already your relatives. Rather than being done out of tradition, ceremony, or even necessity (in some circles “godparent” is a designation for those who would take legal custody of your kids), appointing godparents celebrates these special Christian friendships.

Baptism marks our entrance into the new covenant and into the family of God. We believers are now blood-related through Christ’s death and resurrection. Baptism cries out that water is now thicker than blood. This covenant-making moment is the perfect opportunity to recognize godparents. They become adopted into a family as part of a celebration of God adopting all of us into his family...

(read the rest)

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A pastor-theologian who loves the questions…