20080529

Heroes - Part 2

So here is part two of my hero list….

Titus – we see Titus as St. Paul’s associate. What I like about him is that Paul could count on Titus to do anything. Titus was Paul’s utility player: take care of some money transfers, do a church evaluation, step in as an interim pastor – Titus had lots of talent that God used. So he appeals to me because he was multi-talented and ministered in a broad context.

Bill Hybels and Mark Driscoll – these are two guys who both love Jesus and want others to know about Jesus, as well. They are both innovative and created models of ministry that are admirable. They are on opposite sides of one theological spectrum, which might be ironic except that they both very insistently point to Jesus. They are similar in that their younger days were marked by being both very effective and maybe a bit arrogant. They are both very committed to engaging their culture with the gospel.
(update in 2015) - of course, many in evangelicalism have heard the Mark Driscoll had an implosion. Of course this is disappointing. Yet, while this speaks volumes about Driscoll's struggles with pride and his pastoral 'heart,' I hope this does not invalidate his Jesus-centered preaching and the mission to bring the gospel to Seattle-land. The messenger has shot himself, but much of the message is still valid.

Bishop Irenaeus – he was born in the Orient, then ministered in Europe, and a man with a powerful love and concern for his church. He saw a faddish spiritual movement developing, recognized its toxicity for his flock, and took it on himself to argue and refute that heresy of Gnosticism. In doing so, and not really intending to, he became the first systematic theologian of the church. His name means “peaceable” and he lived up to that moniker.

C.S. Lewis – I have a real respect for bright people who can communicate clearly. C.S. Lewis was once described by a close associate as “the clearest thinking man in Britain” because of the lucidity of his writing style. He came to Jesus later in life and turned his smarts towards explaining why following Jesus was the most obviously rational thing to do.

George Washington – people of my generation went through the 60’s when it was the cool thing to trash the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson excepted. But in college I read a biography of Washington and found him to be a true hero. Not always the brightest man in the room (compared with others of the Founding Fathers), he was a man of character, courage, and talent. He made many mistakes but never repeated any of them and learned from them all. He was sacrificially dedicated to his new country.

Winston Churchill – very similar to George Washington for me: a late-bloomer, tenacious, dedicated to his nation, and a charmer. We think of Churchill today for his wit, which was considerable, but few knew that Churchill wasn’t much of a student, had a pretty obscure start as a politician, but kept plugging away until he was the man of the hour during the Second World War.

George Smiley – this is a fictional character born of ‘John LeCarre,’ a spy novelist. George is a master spy but as anti-James Bond as can be: middle aged, un-athletic, bad with women, plenty of self-doubts, a powerful thinker, hated gadgets – the character of Smiley is very compellingly drawn by ‘LeCarre.’

So there are some common themes here. Dedication and purpose to life, character and integrity, talent and capacity, mostly intellectuals or bright people. These are my heroes.

20080526

Heroes - Part 1

I was just recently challenged to make up a list of my heroes and to think a bit upon the list. I then recalled that I had a list of heroes (look to the right) on this blogsite. So I thought I’d tell a bit about why each of these are on that list.

Jesus – can’t get past this one, Jesus Christ is my hero. He is an awesome guy, lived an exemplary life, I want to be like him. I am an absolute raving fan about Jesus. I worship the dude.

Joseph Jacobson I – you know this guy as Joseph, the son of Jacob, who was a bit relationally retarded as a young guy (and a bit arrogant), got sold into slavery, languished in prison for a couple of decades, but was eventually used greatly by God to save thousands of lives. I admire Joe because God used Joe’s talents to do good and great things. Additionally, a case could be made that Joe was a late bloomer and that is something I identify with.

Joseph Jacobson II – you know this Joe as Jesus’ dad. I think Joe is the unsung hero of the Christmas story. Joe’s character, his determination to obey God, his acceptance of an unthinkable responsibility to raise the boy Jesus… Well, Joe ought to be the patron saint of all blue collar tradesmen. He loved God, did his job, took his responsibilities as a husband and father seriously, and didn’t ask for anything in return. We should honor this guy more.

Mary Elidatter – I’m using the Scandinavian formula for this gal’s name. This is Mary, Jesus’ mom. Mary is an absolutely first-class gal. She should not only be a role model for women but all us men as well. She was one strong woman. This is the kind of gal we should marry and the kind of gal we should help our daughters to become like.

Mark Etzen – this is a friend of mine who died in 2007 from pancreatic cancer. Mark was funny, supportive, positive, and wise. He sold things and was good at that; he was generous with his resources; he was a respected voice in our church’s leadership; he was an exemplary family man. All of those things made him a good friend to me. But the thing that capped off his hero status to me was the way he died: with courage, grace, and looking forward to meeting our mutual hero, Jesus.

Doug Humphreys – this is my BFF who was an attorney and has moved into ministry splitting his time pastoring and working for CRM. Doug is smart, funny, a good family man, and has had to battle some health issues. He has done so also with courage and grace. I find myself occasionally thinking that someday I want to grow up to be like Doug, even though he’s younger than me.

Jeff Logsdon – Jeff is the ‘Associate Pastor’ of Flipside church. Jeff sought me out to help him with some projects as the newly-planted Flipside was shaping up its ministry model. I soon came to admire Jeff for his courage and willingness to risk much to start the church. Jeff’s wisdom, temperament, and willingness to learn came strongly into the mix when God started speaking more clearly to me about entering into vocational ministry.

This is just part one of my hero list. Keep posted for part two...

20080523

Gifts To The Church

Ephesians 4:11-12 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; ...

In the past, I had considered the gifs spoken of in Ephesians 4 to be spiritual gifts like the lists in Rom. 12 and 1Cor. 12. But my opinion has shifted a bit. I think the meaning is that these are people. That is, God has given us gifted people who are gifts to the church: gifted people who God gave the church to fill the roles of apostles, gifted people who God gave the church to be evangelists, and so forth.

This challenges my thinking about the leaders in church. We frequently hear the idea that our pastors, teachers, evangelists are just plain folk who aren’t any different from the rest of us. Even more so that the “calling” to ministry isn’t anything different or special from the calling to be a godly computer repair guy or Jesus-loving health insurance agent.

Something bugs me about that. I get it – of course the idea is to 1) prevent pride and arrogance from destroying our leaders, and 2) to affirm those that don’t have the ‘call to ministry' that God delights in them and their work, as well.

But when I look at scripture, I do not see leaders who are ordinary guys and gals. I see very high-capacity, usually well-trained, and high-functioning people. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Jesus, Matthew, Luke, Paul, John – all of these were not ‘just plain folk.’ And when I look at the pastors who I’ve been shepherded by: Ron S., Paul C., John M., Dan B., Ben B., Jack L., , Dave G., (a string of Bible names there!) Rob A., and Keith K. – these guys have uniformly been very bright, could’ve succeeded and prospered in any field they would’ve entered, and worked hard at their roles. The same goes for most missionaries I know and the few evangelists I know about (I admit to not knowing any folks with the titles of “prophet” or “apostle”).

What is impressive to me is that God captured these folks lives, shaped them, and then gave them as gifts to the churches they served. God gave gifts of specific people to fill those roles. That's how I now understand this passage.

20080520

Acts 5:13 - Attraction and Repulsion

I was reading Acts 5 and I was interested to note that as the new movement (at that time it was called, "Followers of The Way") was starting and still meeting in the Temple courts, that this phrase appears:"But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem." Acts 5:13. Hmmm. Nobody wanted to be around them, but everybody respected them. That's both odd and interesting.

That got me thinking about what I'd heard from Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian in New York. Keller talks about how every culture has elements that both affirm and rejects Christian values. Our culture, for example, stands up and applauds our compassion, charity, and social activism to all members of our society. But our culture hates the fact that we say sexual activity needs to be restricted. In the Muslim culture, they affirm our sexual 'ethics,' but think we are plain wrong-headed to be indiscriminately charitable.

In both of those cases, Christianity speaks out against the culture. One of our tasks to to realize that we have to be faithful to Bible and affirm how the culture we find ourselves in is in alignment with Bible and speak prophetically when our culture is not in alignment.

I think it's obvious: that is one reason we study the Bible - to know the difference between God's perspective and our society's perspective. But here's the other thing: we shouldn't be surprised when the world both esteems us and hates us. I think that might be a bit of what was happening in Acts 5:13.

High Capacity Servants

It wasn't until after the Apostolic age during the Patristic (Church Fathers) period that any commentator explicitly linked the servants identified in Acts 6 with the office of Deacon. Still, it seems that it is appropriate and helpful to consider Acts 6 as the inauguration of this important, but now degraded, office in the church.

Western Seminary, rightly (seems to me) teaches a plurality of Eldership and a separate office of Deacon. However, in our modern churches we frequently place people in the Deacon office who are, well, lesser. Maybe good-hearted souls who like to help out, or good ol' Boys who mean well and need some affirmation ("Billy Bob's a good guy, let's make him a Deacon"). I think that degrades the role, function, and office I see in Acts 6.

I look at who's described here and they are very high functioning, extremely commited, spiritual exemplars and leaders of the local church. They are men of the highest integrity. Especially as they are going out to very needy women, you better believe they need to be 'one-woman' men (1Tm 3:12)!

Look at the two examples: Stephen, when he gets caught in a debate, completely holds his own, has no trouble articulately and eloquently telling truth to power, and even though he knows he's going to see his friend Jesus face-to-face very soon, has the presence of mind (while getting his brains literally knocked out of his skull) to express compassion and forgiveness. That's spiritual courage on a level that I never want to experience (coward that I am). Stephen was NOT some well-meaning guy who needed a bit of affirmation. Stephen is a genuine hero.

The next example is Phillip who, after watching one of his best friends getting stoned to death, marches right into the most hated part of his region and starts preaching Jesus to Samaritans. People are responding and Phillip is showing signs of supernatural power. Such wild and wonderful things are happening in Phillip's ministry that the Big Boys, Peter and John, come over to see for themselves. Phillip's got no problem with that because the Spirit's told him to run on down to the dessert road where it just so happens that the most influential Jewish prostelyte in Candace's Queendom is heading back home with a new scroll that he bought up in the Mega-Bible-Bookstore in Jerusalem. Phillip catches him reading out loud and enters into a conversation, asks simple interpretive questions, gives a Biblical Theology of Messiahship and Jesus, sees this guy convert, baptizes him right on the spot, sends him on his way and then - apparently - the Spirit does a Star-Trek-transportor thing with Phillip plopping him 20 miles away. Phillip settles in at the influential seaport town of Ceasarea, raises some pretty impressive girls, and has a reputation as being a major Evangelist. This is no Good Ol' Boy - this guy has got Game and played it for the long term.

My point is that I think we need to re-evaluate our view of Deacons.

20080515

Looking for Ministry

So I’m looking for a ministry position. This is an interesting process and very different than industry.

First, let’s get all the negatives out of the way. Most church (small to medium sized) hiring practices are very poor. Churches are terrible communicators with their pastoral candidates. There are situations where the elders – some of whom may have never gone to college – are expecting to hire somebody with a graduate degree. Additionally, the elders may not have much experience hiring people or, if they do, it’s manual or semi-skilled labor. The search committee may, if the candidate is fortunate, meet once a week. The candidate is expected to give, up front, a ton of difficult information. Much of the information expected is extremely personal. Some liken the process to a “spiritual colonoscopy.” And then, some churches are looking for candidates who must fit a Very Narrow band of beliefs and practices: not just Calvinistic or Arminian – are they Reform seven pointers or only five pointers? Not just amillenial or millennial, but are they non-dispensational pre-trib rapture pre-millennialists? Again, a group of elders who may not have been to Bible college, much less have seminary level training, assume that they know Biblical doctrine better than the guy who they’re interviewing.

When I looked for work in industry, I hit the want ads, sent resumes, only if the hiring people thought I had good qualifications was I then contacted by phone, then went to interview, and then I'd fill in an application. During the interview they didn’t ask me if I was in the Yourdon or McCracken school of program structure; they asked if I could do it, was I qualified, and assumed that if I were competent that they didn’t have to tell me how to do the job. They asked if I could get along with people, was a good worker, and didn't ask about my marrital relationship.

This process is pretty goofy.

But, there is something rather noble in the midst of all the chaos and incompetent practices. There is the realization that God is sovereign. There is the mix of tough and tender that this process imposes on those who enter it. On one hand, a candidate must have the emotional stuff to say, “Yes, I really think that God can use me in this church to do great things.” On the other hand, the candidate is constantly evaluating and checking their motives, the clarity of their hearing for the One voice that matters, attempting to wade through well-meaning advice, and being encouraging, gracious, and polite in the face of some thoughtlessly rude behavior.

Additionally, there is the testing of calling. How clear is the candidate's vision to this extremely important role? This rather annoying process can shake the candidate to the core: this isn't just a job, it is a "calling."

This is a weird line of work.