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Moved Sites (again) to A Better Covenant hope to dialogue with you there.

The Old Testament is so boring and so is most of the sermons that I hear on it. “How to pray like Nehemiah” or “How to have the attitude of Joseph” or “Why not complain when you are in a desert situation” or “Why you have to get some friends out of your boat of promise” or “How adultery destroys your testimony” or “The leafs and onions of Egypt”….. I could continue but I digress.

Not to mention the yearly bible plans are cool if I could read something that I liked. Unlike Leviticus, Numbers, Chronicles, Nahum, Obadiah …….  which can become quite redundant and boring.

However, when the Old Testament is faithfully exposited through Christoloigcal lenses the Old Testament becomes just as exciting as the New Testament.  So here is yet another plug for a case for biblical theology. About a year and a half ago I was introduced to biblical theology by wrestling through New Covenant Theology and Covenantal Theology.

Men like Goldsworthy, Azurdia, Poythress, Clowney, Dale Ralph Davis and Vos not to mention sites like Beginning with Moses and Biblical Theology . If you are new there a few great introduction books and a host of articles and writings on the two links above. Listening to Azurdia and Keller is also a really good way to get acquainted to this type of biblical interpretation.

As you being your new bible reading plans keep the verse below in mind I believe it will help you gain an unquenchable passion for the Old Testament scriptures and help you understand the Theocentrcity (God Centeredness) and Christocentric (Christ Centered) nature of the Old Testament. Not to mention we find the Gospel written throughout all of the Old Testament in shadows and pictures:

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Returning Biblical

Education to the Local

 Church

 David Alan Black  

It has always intrigued me that the early Christians made such unstoppable progress despite their lack of a professionally-trained clergy. Perhaps there are some lessons we can learn from them today.

I think, for example, of a church in Hawaii that I was a part of many years ago. It offered classes designed for “laypersons,” and many of us eagerly attended them. I can still remember my lessons as well as my teacher, a Mr. Cook. He was a mentor and a model, and not merely a lecturer. The result? An unquenchable appetite to go even deeper in my studies of the Christian life.

Often I am invited to teach in church-related Bible schools, many of them in the Two-Thirds World. And I am delighted to do so. The local church in America seems to have forgotten its responsibility to disciple its members. “After all, we have our seminaries.” That is a dangerous attitude. The seminary classroom can be a place of magnificent learning, and often is. But every care must be made to avoid a learning experience that fails to give our students an idea of what it costs to follow Jesus. We must not forget that the early church had no formal educational institutions or professionally-trained academics, and yet it turned the world upside-down in a mere 30 years.

There were many good reasons for this. Someone once said that the three greatest dangers of a seminary education are extraction, expense, and elitism. A clerical culture develops. Writes Abbé Michonneau in his book Revolution in a City Parish (pp. 131-32): 

Our seminary training … has put us in a class apart…. Usually it means that we feel compelled to surround ourselves with those who will understand our thought and our speech, and who have tastes like our own…. We are living in another world, a tidy clerical and philosophical world.

“Clergy” becomes a whole way of living, an ecclesiastical subculture. The church, however, predates the seminary and will outlast it. The book of Acts reminds us that the earliest church leaders were homegrown nobodies. They were not parachuted in from the outside with all of the proper credentials. They were already full participants in their congregations – they had homes, they had jobs, and they had solid reputations. If at all possible, I think we too would do well to train people for leadership in our local churches, equipping them for evangelism and other ministries, thus complementing the work of our seminaries and Bible colleges. The early church knew that leadership is best learned by on-the-job training, not by sending our most promising leaders off to sit behind a desk.

There is a real need today for ministry to become de-professionalized. Let us not forget the sufficiency of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to guide even the simplest believer into truth. Any church can, if it is willing, follow the pattern of the early church in this regard. It can begin by ensuring that its shepherd-teachers are steeped in the Word of God and able to teach its magnificent truths to others. Happy the church that, like the Berean congregation, can listen sensitively to the Holy Spirit as He speaks through the Scriptures! It is interesting to observe how many people have signed up for the Greek class I am offering in my local church. All are welcome, and I am expecting a broad array of students. I cannot help but think of the example set for me so many years ago by Mr. Cook. He had a true pastor’s heart, and he knew the Word. He was a mature Christian who walked daily and deeply with his Savior. And what of his students? They came from all walks of life, but each was prepared to listen and discuss and study and learn.

Let there be no pay for teacher and no fee for student! Equally, let us use ordinary language in our teaching and avoid the jargon of the academy. You have to get the right instructor, of course, otherwise the enterprise will be counter-productive. But I am not talking about someone with a doctorate in theology. And there is no need to professionalize or formalize the instruction either. I think it is fair to say that the tendency of American churches is to pay inordinate attention to matters of incorporating, financing, and staffing their new “Bible Institutes.” I am suggesting that it would be a waste of time and resources to hire a registrar, faculty, and administration. Let us look to those in our congregations who will volunteer their time and talents for the work. What a rare and attractive thing it would be to offer solid biblical instruction without the paraphernalia so often deemed indispensable by professional educators.

I would like to make it clear once more that I am not saying we should not have seminaries or Bible schools. What troubles me is that we so often equate a formal biblical education with true biblical understanding. It seems to me that it is time to say “Enough!” to the fallacious notion that a degree in theology makes one qualified for leadership in the church. Throughout the Scriptures the summons is given to forsake conformity to the world’s wisdom and to pursue the wisdom that is from above. Paul reminds us that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3), and that we “are complete in Him” (Col. 2:10). Call this the “sufficiency of Christ,” if you will, but it is insufficiently acknowledged. A major exception was the sixteenth-century Anabaptists in Europe. It was their devotion to the Scriptures that set the Anabaptists apart from their Reformation counterparts. They listened to the Word of God with humble reverence. They were anxious to obey it too, whatever the cost to them personally. Elsewhere I have noted that they believed in “the Bible as a book of the church instead of as a book for scholars,” and in “a hermeneutic of obedience instead of a hermeneutic of knowledge.” The Anabaptists well understood that we learn to apply the Word not in the abstract milieu of the classroom but in the world. And when we truly understand the truth of God’s Word, it shapes our entire life and worldview.

I believe one of the greatest needs of the contemporary church is conscientious obedience to the words and teachings of Jesus. Mature Christian discipleship is possible only where there is submission to the full biblical witness to Christ. And there is nothing in a formal education that guarantees such obedience. Indeed, there is much, I think, that impedes it. As an example, take a course in Acts I once taught at a Bible college in a developing country. The students were much more inclined to bring their notebooks to class than their Bibles. Their studies clearly were geared more toward a grade than toward life. When final exam time came, things took an interesting twist. In part one of the exam I intended the students to write out from memory certain verses with their Bibles closed, while in part two they were to answer questions with their Bibles open. The students strenuously objected to this policy, pleading with me not to expose them to the temptation of cheating on part one. My answer was gentle but unyielding: “If I cannot trust you not to cheat on this exam, you do not belong in this Bible school and certainly not in any form of Christian ministry.” In a similar incident that occurred while I was teaching Greek in another institution (again in the Two-Thirds World), my request to allow my students to write a take-home exam was met with the dean’s demurral: “Impossible. They can’t be trusted.” And this in the largest theological college in that country! In saying this, I have not forgotten the human tendency to cheat on exams. Yet these were Christian adults, not children. It is plain that if we cannot trust our brightest theological students to exercise self-control and honesty in exam-taking, we certainly cannot entrust them with pastoral oversight.

We in the church of Jesus Christ are always in danger of magnifying titles and degrees and forgetting that a formal theological education guarantees neither sound doctrine nor mature character. The essential mark of Christian leadership is love not ability, humility not arrogance, wisdom not knowledge. We must cease viewing knowledge as an end in itself, but must pursue the mind of Christ, remembering that “truth is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:21). I wonder if anything is more urgent today, for the building up of the Body of Christ, than that its leaders should be, and should be seen to be, men who have “been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The crucial thing is that local churches take discipleship seriously. And it is neither biblical nor helpful to abdicate this responsibility to institutions of higher education, as valuable as they are. The seminary exists to serve the local church, not vice versa. So when opportunity occurs to return biblical education to your local church, I say grasp it with both of your hands!

January 8, 2009

David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.

Here is the text:

3:1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

Shepherds take care of, tend to, nurture, protect, guard, provide and guide sheep. That is why they are called shepherds. I will be candid here. Much of what goes over as pastoring isn’t what the bible defines as pastoring. First lets make one thing clear. Pastoring is a “gift of the Holy Spirit”. It isn’t something you learn in school, it isn’t something you read in a book, it isn’t something you are “promoted” to by others. As Paul says in Ephesians “When He  ascended He led a host of captives free AND gave gifts unto men”. If you drop down a few more verses in Ephesians 4 you will see some of those gifts highlighted one being “pastor” (among many) which is given by the Spirit.

With that said, what I see today isn’t pastoring. If it is then pulpits, conferences, pews and buildings are sheep. Since the bible never calls them sheep then what goes over today as pastoring really ain’t pastoring. Don’t believe see if you can find what is perpetuated as pastoring today in the scriptures. Many pastors spend more time with their bibles than they do sheep. As Alan says  “when the bible talks about teaching it means much more than articulating doctrinal truth”.  Here is a quote:

So, first, sharing these stories is a method of teaching – a method that is sorely lacking in many churches today. We have replaced this holistic method of teaching and discipleship with a method that relies almost solely on words. In fact, many future leaders are taught not to get too close to the people they teach, making it impossible for them to teach with their conduct.

It is funny that man who can articulate truth better than others get a pass on pastoring and the real pastoring is passed on to other man. False dichotomies are erected to defend such a position such as: Teaching Pastor, Singles Pastor, Discipleship Pastor……. . We more Reformed folks love to point our doctrinal error but for some glaring reason we ignore these erroneous dichotomies in the name of receiving good “biblical preaching”.

So on to the title. What will follow will be brief but I think important for us to consider. Lets start off by Paul’s charge to Timothy. Paul says ” anyone who desires”. So the first qualification is a desire. I won’t get into much there. Then Paul goes into some qualifications for those who desire. Whats funny is the only way for someone to be meet those qualifications is if they are ALREADY walking in them. So the guy must BE  a good teacher, a good husband, a good father…. hospitable.

These aren’t things that they should do once they become and Elder but things they should be doing for being considered an elder. Let me rewind a bit. What made David a good leader for Israel is that He was already faithful at tending to sheep! He was found faithful at shepherding so it was just the overflow of this which made him a great king for Israel. I think one of the problems is that most pastors are transplanted from school (they have good theory). The other problem is the false dichotomy of elders/pastors. These functions in the local body go hand in hand but I will stop there with that argument.

So why hospitable? Great question. One of the primary functions of an elder is to provide oversight, guidance and direction by teaching. The problem is today teaching is synonymous with discipleship clasess and preaching, instead of examples by living! You see a once a week discipleship class for a 1.5 hours or a man’s book club or a 1 hour sermon suffices for what the bible calls teaching. The problem is the bible never says that, our pragmatic practices force us to interpret “teaching” that way.

You see being hospitable could be defined simply as “open lives and open homes”. You see teaching me to be a good husband by giving me “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” or teaching me how to be a good husband by giving me “An Exemplary Husband” or teaching me how to be a good teenager by giving me “Do Hard Things” or taking a woman through a “Titus 2” class has provided a smokescreen that allows other to sneak out of their responsibility. When Paul says “Older women teach younger women”. This isn’t a weekly class but a daily peek into my life by being hospitable. “Older men teach younger men” isn’t a weekly/bi-weekly discipleship class. It is an open life and an open home in where I SEE YOU live these things out. Thus teaching in both WORD and DEED are inseparable in the scriptures!

Allowing people to text message you, send you an email, or allowing people a one hour a month “appointment” is insufficient my friends! As a faithful church goer and tithe payer (it is funny how jokers can tell you how to be a faithful servant but aren’t faithful to their call) you should demand more! Discipleship is always life on life! As Lecrae says “after the music stops what’s next”. I ask “after the preaching and church stuff stops what’s next”.

If you feel God has call you to pastor, then start pastoring! Not by lording over and building nice expository sermons, but by being hospitable, so I can see you live it out. So I can see how you handle conflict as a mature believer, so I can see you managing your household well, so I can see how your neighbors speak highly of how you serve them, so I can see your reputation with outsiders, so I can see your example!

If you are too busy writing books (or trying to get your book published) then stop pastoring. If you are too busy going to and speaking at different conferences then stop pastoring, if you are too busy to take care of sheep, please, pretty please, stop calling yourself  a pastor! Why? Because there a bunch of minnie me’s in seminary following your lead and they too will only perpetuate what they see, because you are all over Itunes, all over the book store and all over the blogsphere. We need shepherdly pastors, ones who by being hospitable are an example to the flock (that is what Peter says right?). We don’t need more professionalized men, who spend their time isolated from the ones they are called to provide oversight to!

Many children are robbed every Sunday. How you might ask? By cute little stories derived (yes derived) from biblical accounts. I hate to say this, but I think those who disciple small children in churches (the primary responsibility lays at the foot of parents and particularly FATHERS), should take a biblical theology class, even if it is a crash course.

But I won’t stop there many Sunday goers are robbed of the truth and the weight of many old testament narratives. Jesus speaking to the disciples in Luke 24 took them through Moses and the Prophets showing them pictures, types and shadows of Himself. However, in the name of relevance sermons like “Casting Them From the Boat” (this was an actual sermon I listened to on how some people will bring you down and you must cast them out of the boat using the Jonah narrative) dominate the Sunday meeting.

So here is what I am going to do for you. Here is a sermon series by my favorite preacher on Jonah. Mr. Azurdia has blessed me tremendously every since Ced introduced me to his teachings.

Jonah
Jonah 1: 1-3
Jonah 1: 4-16
Jonah 1:17 – 2:10
Jonah 3: 1-4
Jonah 3: 5-8
Jonah 3: 9
Jonah 3: 10
Jonah 4: 1-11

saddleback

Anyone who follows this blog or any of the previous ones, understand that I don’t pick on Rick Warren. For the most part he seems to be nice guy who I differ with on some issues, but mostly on ecclesiology. I don’t think he is a false teacher/prophet. I think he understands and articulates the Gospel from a historic perspective, so for that he is my brother.

However, ecclesiology effects the way we as believers minister to one another and how we worship God. So for me ecclesiology plays a huge part in the believers life. With that said I will insert a link.

The Saddle Back One Card

card

Listen to the purpose of the Card and let me know what you think. I believe this is the epitome of Corporation style churches that plague the body of Christ today and instead of having genuine relationships with you and having to do life with you my shepherding of you is reduced to a card you swipe. Good technology? I think not.  Not to mention the card also is a “time, talent, treasure” monitor that can show your leadership and you how faithful you are to the corporation church!

Anyway listen to it let me know what you think.

israel

It is funny in a sad way how systems of theology (especially erroneous ones) effect the way we live and minister to others.

I remember listening to Christian radio maybe 5-6 years ago and hearing “those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed”. I won’t saturate you with the scriptures that were used to defend such a case. But to put it frankly they are all Old Covenant texts. I remember hearing people cheer as Israel would strike their enemies (my good brother Daniel Cosby has a good post on facebook about that). So they would applaud the death of those wicked “Palestinians”.

I really didn’t know how to take that. I thought it wrong to cheer the death of an enemy given the fact that Jesus says “love your enemies” and Paul says “if your enemy is thirsty bring him something to drink”. I would wonder how we would applaud the death of someone who did not know Jesus thus they would spend an eternity away from God. I thought that we should mourn and tear our clothes at such an event, but many were endorsing and applauding all in the name of American Christians responsibility to “bless Israel”.

So I want to address a theological fallacy. That fallacy is the one that states Israel is God’s people! Now to be biblically faithful Israel is God’s chosen people, the problem is who is the “True” Israel. If you spend anytime in Romans or Galatians or Ephesians or even Peter that questioned is answered quite easily. The problem is when we apply the broken interpretive method of reading the New Testament through the lens of the Old. That is similar to a group of individuals who celebrate the first half of a football game when they were up 3 points at half but lost by 30!

If you want to faithfully handle your bible, the first thing you want to do is begin with the fulfillment of God’s plan. Paul says God gave Him the full revelation to that which was a mystery hidden from the writers of the Old Testament. They see shadows and types, however, the New Testament writers see the full picture. They don’t talk about a Messiah. John says “we touched Him”. Peter says the prophets “longed” and “speculated” on what God was revealing to them, however, they walked with Jesus and received the full revelation of God’s eternal plan of redemption.

So with that said, there is only ONE people of God. Paul says in Ephesians “that two people are made one new man”. The one new man is the Church or the true Israel of God in Christ! That leads to the point of this blog. The church is not to involve herself with the ethnocentric/nationalistic/self preserving conflict in the middle east, other than to pray for peace and to find a way to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ.

To applaud Israel’s method of controlling a land (that has been fulfilled in Christ) is to employ, as Boyd would say, the kingdom of man! As believers we don’t get people groups to comply by exercising power over, but power under. I remember when Dr. Black told me “I pray for the opportunity to wash Bin Laden’s feet“.

Peace in the Gaza Strip will not be accomplished with the sword. As Jesus says “he who lives by the sword will die by the sword”. Jesus did not gather a group of man to bring a militia against Rome! Jesus was not concerned with an earthly parcel of land, wrongly defined today as the “promised land”. No! Jesus’ kingdom was not and is not of this world and that means neither is ours. The kingdom we are servants of is the kingdom where our King currently reigns and will reign until God the Father makes all of His enemies His footstool. Those enemies aren’t Palestinians friend. Those enemies are those who did not do will of the Father.

I want to let you know I am not “anti-Semitic”. I am pro-Christ! And Christ’s heart is for the whole world and the remnant that will believe is who the bible calls Israel or as Paul says in Romans 2 “a true Jew”. I love Palestinians as much as I love the Jewish people. I love Iraqis as much as I love Americans who they are fighting with.

We should be alarmed when a minister of the Gospel spews hate speech from his mouth in the name of nationalism. The center of the Gospel is love displayed by a “joy” (as Hebrews says) to endure Calvary. Believe it or not, Jesus does not need the land we have defined as Israel today. Jesus is not coming to set up an earthly kingdom. Jesus is already reigning as the Son of David and when He returns He will return for His bride that He has made pure. Our job is prepare others for the King.

I close with this. Our hearts should be broken by the constant warfare and the loss of life that plagues this never ending conflict. We should be quick to rebuke anyone who applauds such demonic nationalism, especially if they name the name of Christ. We have the only answer to the problem. That answer is Jesus of whom both those of Israel and Palestine reject. As bullets fly in this earthly realm we are to move to the Spiritual. Lets beg our Lord of peace and reconciliation during these turbulent times. Both parties are equally wicked, both are fighting for a parcel of land that will be leveled at the second coming of our Lord. Neither are endorsed by God. Lets pray that the Gospel would infiltrate their hearts and they would drop the national ties and see each others as brothers and sisters, which only can be done by and through the Spirit!