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Archive for the ‘Christian Education’ Category

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.”

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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.

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There is an argument that goes something like this:

There are two reasons why this kind of speaking in the church is so crucial. One is that the subject matter is infinitely important. There is no other organization on earth that deals in matters of eternal life and eternal death—matters about God and his Son and his Spirit, matters about salvation and judgment, matters about the life that pleases God or displeases him. In other words, no other group of people, besides the church, gathers regularly to deal in such tremendously important realities. This means that there is a form of speech that is fitting as part of that gathering that fits the greatness of that truth—namely, preaching. So the first reason for preaching is that the nature of the truth calls for something more than mere explanation or discussion or conversation.

Today I want to tell you that I am not convinced of such a method and I will give you 3 reasons why.

1. Though many like to make the argument otherwise, the fact is that when we see preaching in the bible we have taken what we now do, and what the Reformers esteemed and have read it back into the text. As I read the Epistles the word or some form of the verb didaskō  is used much more frequently than the word  kēryssō and Timothy is told only once as far as I can tell to “preach” and to add to that kerysso is used the majority of time with proclaiming the Gospel and that 90% of the time to the lost. Thus we see the command to teach in the local fellowship.

The problem lies in this question. Is teaching to be a proclamation style (pulpit ministry) or a more sit down or conversation or dialogue of some type? I think the latter. Given the local of where the church met. When Paul went into the public he preached, when he was with the Church meeting in homes he taught. It is funny that Paul never ever gives the qualification of elders to “preach” (proclamation)  but they should be able to teach (instruct). So my first reason is that it makes no sense from a biblical perspective to “preach” expositorly, though you should always “teach” expositorily. This means that the grammar, original audience, historical context and all should be carefully considered before we say what a specific passage means.

2. The next two reasons are a bit more pragmatic. The number two reason is that interactive teaching is always the best method of teaching especially new information. Being able to ask questions, get clarification, and even engage critically seems to be the way people learn best. How do I know if you are learning the information? Because I am so good at delivering it? This seems to be the position of many who preach in such a way. What it sounds like to me is that they are saying “hey I did a good job expositing the text, now apply it to your life”. There seems to be a huge disconnect. The first being how do you know I understand, the second being  do you care if I disagree.

I am not promoting an arguement but a chance to engage the speaker. And if the speaker is preaching publicly he should answer publicly. If everybody already knows and don’t need clarification then maybe we should be teaching something different. For the life of me I can’t figure out why this happens. There are only two reasons. 1. A speaker is overconfident in his skillset or 2. A speaker is overconfident in his method. I guess a third option is that the speaker doesn’t care if you get it or not, they are going to deliver it.

However, when those listening to the message have a chance to ask questions and get points of clarification it can be quite rewarding. Everyone that I know, that has such opportunities are always excited that they are given opportunities to learn more and clear up any confusion that they have had. It is funny that when the person who is learning “expository” preaching is in school and at conferences they have questions and can interact with the professors and even be critiqued by classmates and professors but come to church and shut the very opportunity they had off to others. As one of my sons cartoons say “this is quite mysterious”.

3. The final reason is that people come because they want to learn and even share what they are learning. Not to mention sharing in the local congregation should be more than greeting at the door or helping people find places to park or giving, or ushering, or stacking chairs and operating the powerpoint or sound booth. Why do we encourage people to participate in the cosmetics of the gathering but not the purpose of it. If the purpose is the ministry of the word and we have built up such anticipation for it, shouldn’t we want people to participate in the most important part of “church”? But it seems that we eagerly and dogmatically exclude people from it! You can do everything else except participate in the word. For the life of me I can’t figure out why.

However, what greater way to know as a “pastor” what people are learning? If you allow them to share in the teaching and ministry of the word, you can find out quite quickly if they are really learing  how to faithfully handle the word. You can see if they are applying a proper interpretive method right? Not only that since “preaching” contains both the information and the application,  what better way to know if the word is being applied than allowing people to share what the word is doing in their lives and how it is transforming them to the image of Christ through the work of the Spirit. Something like Philippians 2, when Paul is saying have the mind of Christ which has all to do with self-sacrifice and being others-focused, wouldn’t it be sweet for someone to stand up and tell the family of God how the Spirit applied it to their heart? But nope, “pastors” have spent the last week preparing for the grand show, the great solo that follows the rest of the theatrics. We might as well start a drum roll when pastors walk onto the stage I can hear it now “coming to the stage….”, then the big blue spotlight comes on while the rest of the place dims!

I close with an appeal. I know we have been taught by many great theologians that the word is the center of the meeting. That if we don’t preach expositorly the church will fail to worship God and start to dive into liberalism. I know the pulpit has a high place (almost idolatry) in the church today and the reason why people don’t want expository sermons is because they are weak, or don’t want to be changed by the word or some other foolish statement that comes.  But that is a lie. I know many brothers and sisters who have been doing this for years and they have a community like no other who are image bearers of Christ and have deep love for God and His word.  Finally teaching is one of the functions of elders, never preaching. You can’t find one place in scripture where “preaching” was the primary reason for the church to gather. All types of teaching occurred however, through song (Col 3) through prayers (Ephesians) through the public reading of the word (Timothy) and so forth. The Greatest Show On Earth method of “expository preaching” doesn’t really make the cut, when I study the scriptures, especially the epistles, there are many proof texts with all type of traditional meanings read into them coming out of Timothy (and Timothy only) but again it fails to stand under the light of scrutiny.

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stranger

 

Here is a link to the book

I don’t understand why I didn’t hear of this work earlier. Hutch pointed this to me a while back! Hutch I appreciate it. I have recommend this to a few people. But it is sort of a Biblical Theology or at least a Christ Centered approach to interpreting the Scriptures. It sort of has a  Goldworthy or Vern Poythress feel to it, if you have read any of their works. Anyway as it relates to an intro to a Christ Centered Hermenutic of the Old Testament I would recommend this one. Not to mention for those who are not pursing a Seminary Eductaion but will be in some teaching capacity I would also recommend this book to them. Please, please check it out. For all my pastor buddies or those who teach in some capacity and especially for my gifted disciple makers give the new disciples this work first, take a sunday school or a small group through it. This book is another worth its weight in platinum!

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sermon-piper

No this is not about Piper per se! This is more about my journey as a Christian and some pitfalls or better yet crutches I used along the way. Back in 2004 I was handed a MacArthur CD and immediately the Spirit began to take my previous (?) 10 years of Christianity and bring me up to speed on it. What I mean is that I may have become a Christian at 16 but then again it could have been 11. Either the way Satan wanted to destroy me becausein each instance I got worse. 11 to 16 I was a devilish young adult and from 16 to say 17 I was just as devilish but with a little more conscience. I made professions of faith at 11 and 16 but for some reason I just got worse. The only thing that prevented me from wilding out from 17 to 25 was the military and then getting married, it was more due to the social consequences than the spiritual I promise.

But anyway at 25 I was handed a MacArthur CD and I was hooked. I don’t know if any of you can track with me, but because of MacArthur I was opened to Piper (someone thought if I liked MacArthur I would like Piper). This opened the door and paved the road to the journey I am currently on. I became hooked instantly. I purchased a bunch of MacArthurs books and began to devour them I also listened to many, many of his sermons. That only increased my appetite to learn. Then comes Piper. He was preaching through Romans, okay that may be an understatement. I think Piper wrote Romans in a different life he was in that joker for so long. And I listened to him every hour of the day.

I work on spreadsheets and databases and I rarely had to interact with people so I would sit at my desk with headphones, going through Romans with Dr. Piper. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even have to read my bible, because Piper was an audio commentary on it. And that is when the dependency came.

Okay lets rewind a bit. From 16 to 25 I did read my bible whenever I was saved. You have to understand that I was rebaptized like 3 or 4 times due to sinning and leaving the church (I was in a Oneness Pentecostal church and also a Oneness Pentecostal Seventh Day Adventist Church). Everytime that I would fall I would have to be resaved. Not rededication either. But one things was clear. I spent a lot of time in my bible. We couldn’t watch movies, go to parties, go swimming (bathing suits caused us to sin), listen to R&B, they didn’t want me hanging out with my old friends, girlfriends were out of the question, and I was a 18 year old with hormones at the ready to explode rate. So I promise after running like 10 miles and doing all the push ups I could the bible and I were intimate.

Actually it was this time in the bible that helped me see what I was in as false. This was before a class on hermeneutics. I began to challenge my pastors and was told that it was Satan tricking me. I wouldn’t give in, I left due to some foul things that went on got married came back and Charity (my wife) was having nothing of the sort. I am so glad that she didn’t submit. I studied some more challenged them some more (I thought I could change them if they just saw the word, but traditions are hard to break) and I later left again and this time they didn’t want me back.

But again I would read the bible for hours. This is how I figured out that tongues wasn’t the evidence of salvation, that baptism wasn’t essential for salvation, that believers were not under the law of Moses and so forth. There was much I didn’t know but one thing is I could quote scriptures and knew my bible as well as I could without any outside help (unless you count the Spirit). All that changed in 2004. I got hooked on sermons. I would have withdrawals if I couldn’t listen to a sermon. I would even find myself mad when my wife would call on the way home from work (I worked in Downtown about 30-35 miles from my home). She would want to talk but I would want to listen.

My bible became dusty, a little foreign. Yeah I knew the scriptures, but I knew them Sproul’s, MacArthur’s, Begg’s, Swindoll’s, Piper’s, Evan’s, Duncan’s, Mahaney’s, Harris’, Dever’s, Chandler’s, Driscoll’s way! But not my way. I had very little confidence in my ability to handle the scriptures. I was suffering from Expository Sermonitis! It is nearly incurable for those of the Reformed way. Then it got worst. I found Sermon Audio and MLJ’s site. I began to listen to Ken Jones, White Horse Inn, read more books, started to listen to Spurgeon sermons, I was in Sermon heaven. My bible was lonely, it had become an attaraction on my coffee table, close to my bed but nowhere near my hands.

But something happen to me one day. After reading something and hearing something, what I heard disagreed with what I read. I became inquisitive. Started to investigate this distant but familiar inspired book a little more. And slowly but surely the bible became mine again. I picked up resources (not commentaries) that would help me with the text. And I began to challenge more.

So what are you saying Lionel you might ask. What I am saying is that you can trust the Spirit, I am not saying that you can’t listen to sermons, but if you spend more time listening to sermons and reading books about the bible and little time in the bible you have become dependent on another man and are grieving the Spirit. You are sort of like the guy who sat in the bed so long that his legs no longer work or the guy who was locked in a dark room for years and when finally brought out, his eyes barely work. You my friend are in deep trouble. Today in many Reformed circles you are more “spiritual” if you have read certain books or listen to sermons of other men. You are more spiritual if your Ipod has Martyn Lloyd Jones than you are if you have no clue who he is but can handle your bible faithfully.

Shame on us. That we have punted the Spirit and given over the hard work of bible study and prayer and an ear for the Spirit to other men and not only do we enjoy allowing them to do it, we frown on others for not knowing them or have read their books. Listen to me today if you don’t hear anything else. The bible is readeable and you can get way more from it than you can someone else’s sermon and book about it. If you spend more time listening to others than reading your bible and praying for clarification from the Lord, today is the day to stop. The Spirit is still alive and the word is still a lively word. You can come to the bible with confidence that you can comprehend it and apply it to your heart. You can come to the bible with joy and a pure dependency on the Spirit to teach you what it means. How do I know this? Because the guys you listen to, do it all the time!

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Viola Frank. The Untold Story of the New Testament Church: An Extraordinary Guide to Understanding the New Testament . Destiny Image Publishers , 2005. pp. 208. $10.04
Frank Viola author of Pagan Christianity, Rethinking the Wineskin and now Reimagining Church has provided the Body of Christ a Gem in this work. The book sets out to put the New Testament in Chronological order, filling in gaps, and helping the reader of the New Testament to see, smell, touch and hear what our 1st century brothers and sisters would have experienced during the time the “Church” is being built by Jesus Christ through the work of the Spirit in the lives of the Apostles and others.

(more…)

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