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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On Inspiration of Scripture

            What does it mean that I believe that God inspired the writing of scripture in the original languages?  First, that the words of scripture were directed by God and not the various individuals who wrote the words down, even though the various writings show the differences in writing style of the individuals.  This is a thing I believe on faith.  As much as one can show from history, archeology, etc. that certain prophetic statements were before their occurrence, and persons in different times and places wrote things that coordinated with history in ways that could not have been planned, I ultimately believe that God directed those writers because of what the Holy Spirit communicated to my spirit, first to repent and believe on Jesus, and later, as I desired to like to glorify Jesus.
            Second, is that God directed that the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages of the time had words that had just the right nuances to communicate what God wished to communicate.  I cannot prove that, either, but I can see as I study scripture that certain words had just the right nuances that scripture communicates just the right thing, and in some cases more than one, by exactly the word used in the original languages.  This is a significant struggle for our most brilliant minds how to say things that most closely communicate all that the original language said, and simultaneously aviod adding nuances that communicate things not in scripture.
            Third is the opposite of the second.  I need to desire to learn about what God wished to communicate because some persons, sometimes accidentally and sometimes intentionally, have built doctrines out of reading scripture in another language without proper teaching, and built ideas on nuances of a translation’s word, the nuance of which was not in the original language.  One of the most obvious examples, historically, is the middle ages Catholic church’s sale of indulgances, built on a nuance of a word in Latin from Ephesians 5:31-32 that was not in the original Greek.    I use this as an example as, I am told, even Catholic theologians do not defend this anymore.
            Shortly after this blog, I will write one about Acts 19, and how Luke used ekklesia to describe the mob the idolmaker’s guild organized.  That shows how the word could not possibly have much of the cultural baggage connected to the word “church” in English, and equivalent in many languages today.  It is extremely easy, particularly for those of us who were sent to institutional churches when young, to subliminally read the culture we grew up in into the stories in scripture we read.  This is further complicated by two things.  There are theologians and “pastors” out there who do not believe scripture, but know that their paycheck is tied to people who do believe keeping on sending in money to keep them paid.  Their skill, in turn, does not translate to anything else in our culture.  Therefore, they are more than willing to say those things they feel comfortable with, use the Bible to tell inspiring stories, to keep the money coming.  A further problem is there are believing leaders doing the same thing, particularly if, over time, they come, and almost assuredly almost all have some problem in their organization they know doesn’t quite align with scripture, but if it is corrected the whole house of cards could fall.  This, in turn, in our culture, makes the believer that is part of their church who is desiring to seek Jesus with all their heart a threat to their livelihood. 
            I look at this from the aspect of a person who, when in college, considered going to seminary.  I actually applied and was accepted to two different ones.  The Holy Spirit spoke into me directing me to not do so.  For all the difficulties I have faced in life, I am happy that I did not go in that direction.  Part of my being able to speak the message of Jesus in total honesty is not having my financial well being dependent on some person’s idea of what is good and not good to say in public about living for Jesus being connected to it.
Note:  I originally meant to post this in early February, 2011, and just found that, somehow, it had been held as a draft.  Therefore, my reference to a future blog entry on Acts 19 is back in February, 2011.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

2032--priesthood of believers

            The following is a lengthening to five minutes (speaking time) of the commentary I posted in December, 2010, which was #32.  One of the notable features here is that I quote from Jon Zens’ The Pastor Has No Clothes, which was only released this year.  I guess that is one thing we can all look forward to as we live this life, both spiritually and physically, is the continual incorporating of ideas from others wiser than ourselves.


2032—priesthood of believers

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  First Peter chapter 2 verses 4 to 6 say, “Coming to Him (that’s Jesus) as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion, A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame”.  Revelation chapter 1 verses 5 and 6 say, “To him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.”  Believers are the house of God, and Jesus is the Cornerstone, and every believer is a priest before God.

These scriptures speak of the church, which is God’s people, who desire to build up each other to honor Him.  According to scripture, the church is not a building or a special type of not for profit organization.  Nowhere in those scriptures describing the goings on of the New Covenant people, or any other verses, are the words church, temple, or house of God used to refer to a building or corporation.  The church is a group of believers, even where two or three are gathered.  The theologian Jon Zens has written that the modern English word that is closest to what the early church meant by “church” is “town meeting.”  First Corinthians chapter 3 verses 16 and 17 and chapter 6 verse 19 tell us that we (plural) are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the temple of God.

            A priest, both in the Old Testament and in the pagan beliefs surrounding Israel, was an intercessor between God and man.  When Jesus was tortured to death, God made an earthquake to happen that, in the temple in Jerusalem, tore the veil that separated man from the ark that represented God’s seat.  That signified that, by Jesus’ death, there was no longer a need for an intercessor between God and man.  That’s basic Christian teaching, but after faith in Jesus was made legal by the Roman Empire, one of the things that disappeared soon after was the informal encouraging of each other, replaced by a ritualistic ceremony led by one head person, who eventually was called a priest.  The people who were foremost in the Reformation recognized that the title was incorrect, but among churches that rejected the title priest, they continued to operate with one person in charge, even though First Thessalonians chapter 5 verse 11 tells us to build up each other, and that is practically impossible to do when one person feels he or she (usually he) is responsible to do all the building up, oftentimes in part to justify collecting a salary.

            In this world, I may feel more like a prisoner than a king, and in many parts of the world our brothers and sisters in Jesus may be actually prisoners, but Jesus has made us priests—we can speak to God directly in prayer, without any human intermediary, and the Spirit can communicate the groanings of our spirit, and the Spirit can speak to others through us, as scripture tells us that He gives spiritual gifts, not titles.  We are commanded to pray without ceasing.  I have come to understand that as an attitude of desiring constant communication and communion with God.  I can’t do my job, drive to work, care for my family with my eyes closed and hands folded, but God never defined that as being connected to prayer. 

            The Roman Empire either forced, or somehow allowed pagan customs into the newly organizational church.  They had buildings built over the tombs of the apostles, and named churches after the apostles, like paganism named temples after pagan deities. 

              You can email me at or phone me at 757-735-xxxx.  If you would like to go over what I just said at your own pace, a transcript of this talk I have on my blog,, in the entry dated August 28, 2011. You can find out more about non-corporation oriented meetings of believers at

All the scripture quotations, above, are from NKJV.  Zens made the statement I refer to in his book, The Pastor Has No Clothes (Lincoln, NE: Ekklesia, 2011).  I said that God does not give out titles; I address 1 Timothy 3:1 in the commentaries on elders.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Humorous and Profound Quotations

            A few years ago, I heard someone say that it was a good idea to have a hobby.  At that time, not much different from now, I didn’t have extra money, so after thinking a while, I decided to start a quotation collection.  Back when I started this blog, I have a couple of posts full of quotations I had written down.  It has been a few months (along with cleaning up notes sitting under my desk) since then, so I figure its time to make a post of quotes I have collected.  As you will see, some are humorous, and some are profound, and occasionally one that I may not agree with, but its use of our language was memorable.  It reflects that I probably watch too much sports programming.

Death is the ultimate way to close your eyes to the truth.

            --Dr. Rex Beaber (said in an interview during the O. J. Simpson chase)

…as the master, so is the disciple; as the father, so the child.

            --St. John of the Cross

If a group of people is doing everything that a church is supposed to be doing, why not call it a church?

            --E. V. Brooks

I was so broke I couldn’t pay attention.

            --Robert Smith (ESPN football commentator, about his college days)

I am thinking, therefore, I exist.

--Rene Descartes (I only put this famous phrase in due to it is normally quoted with slightly similar words, possibly slightly different in nuance)

Study the past if you would divine the future.


Vegas is built on the rule, while people chose the abherration.

--Dan LeBatard (probably the first time in history LeBatard has been quoted immediately after Confucius and Descartes)

If you are riding a horse across a river, don’t fall off and dance with it.


No ultimate truth is true unless we love it.

--John Middleton Murray (this is the irritating quote that is, in one sense, obviously untrue, but in another aspect, is)

The need for new projects is typical of creative people, whether they are entrepeneurs, independent contractors, or artists.  If you want to torture these people, make them do the same thing over and over again.

            --Nancy Anderson, “Work With Passion Midlife and Beyond,” p. 149

Luck is the residue of design.

            --Branch Rickey

Nietzsche is dead.


I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality…we will train young people before whom the world will tremble.

            --Adolf Hitler (from a speech given at Auchwitz)

…expertise and ambition easily become demonic.

            --Richard Keyes

I gradually began to realize that the post-Enlightenment secular view that divides fact and meaning is itself a faith-held commitment, built on very dubious assumptions.  On the other hand, the foundations for Christian faith claims turned out to be much more solid than I had been led to believe at Harvard.

            --Richard Keyes, from his essay in “Finding God at Harvard”

I have always eaten for entertainment.

            --Brad Cummings, of The God Journey podcast, said as a joke.

But people also have the right not to know, and it is a more valuable one—the right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, and vain talk.

            --Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, from his 1978 commencement address to Harvard

I think people will reject me, so I tease and pull at people until I am proven right.


…inspiration is like a flock of birds.  Sometimes it’s a lovely thing to watch, and sometimes its an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

            --Tris Hussey

Woody Page-isms:

Read this, or you’ll be sorry.  On the other hand, you may be sorry, anyway.

You guys pair up in groups of three, and then line up in a circle.

I own a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father.

Predictions are difficult, especially about the future.

_______’s favorite color is argyle.

2021--on work

            This is another expansion of one of the two minute (speaking time) commentaries I posted in December, 2010 into a five minute (speaking time) format.  This is an expansion of #21—supporting Christian workers.

2021—on work

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  When God sent the Holy Spirit upon the people in the upper room in Acts chapter 2, they were a group of people desiring to be obedient to Jesus, whose lives had changed in a way that, although obvious to anyone who knew them, was not easily able to be described, and was not even a blip on the overall society’s radar.  There was no organization, no money, no one of any renown; even Jesus’ own death was notable to unbelievers only long after it happened.  We see in Acts 2 that when the Holy Spirit came upon them, they went out into the streets, spoke, and many that day and in the days following sensed the spirit of God in the words and the actions of the believers, repented of their sins, and attached themselves to this growing group of people.  There was no human organization, no human plan.  As the weeks and years passed, the apostles taught the new believers what Jesus taught them. The church cared about those around them, both those who believed and their neighbors who did not. Some of those who were not believers came to faith in Jesus, and even those who didn’t respected how they cared for others unlike anything they had seen.

            Apostle was not just a term for the 11 who had followed Jesus and taught the early believers.  It came to be a term for a believer gifted to go and communicate the message of Jesus to others in other geographical areas, direct persons to become followers, and teach these early groups of new believers how to be the church.  People were part of the church as groups.  We see the New Testament church spent money on only two things—helping the poor, both within and outside the church, and to help persons called apostles go to other areas to spread the message of Jesus.  The word “apostle” then meant virtually the same as the modern English word “missionary” does today.  Even then, the apostle we are told the most about in the Bible is Paul.  Being a former Pharisee, he received training in a trade, so that when he went on his travels, he didn’t have to depend on financial help from the church in Antioch, just north of Jerusalem, which he was part of between the time of his coming to faith in Jesus and years later when he began to travel to non-Jewish areas of the world.  A couple who we are told also moved to help spread the message of Jesus, Priscilla and Aquila, also had the same skill as Paul.  There was no place in the early church for a trained, salaried religious professional, unlike all the other beliefs in the society around them.  We see a church meeting at the home of Lydia, who sold fabrics to the royal class.  As a result of coming to faith in Jesus, some who were formerly illiterate desired to learn to read so that they could read scripture, which gave them a skill useful to the Roman government.  In 250 AD, when Diocletian’s last general persecution happened, so many believers held government positions and fled for the hills, the government could not function. Diocletian had to relent, and that was one of the events that led to the eventual legalization of faith in Jesus in the Roman Empire.

            Today, one of our society’s problems is that in too many businesses and other organizations, the people they want to hire and promote are neither the best trained nor the best workers, but those most easily corrupted.  It is a natural, but difficult part of a believer’s living for Jesus to desire to do work that is honest and ethical by God’s standards.  How do we give out best to honor Jesus in work? 

  1. Work as unto God, not as unto man.
  2. Get a skill.  One in six in our society with a college degree is not using it in his or her job, so our world’s idea of counseling is sending a lot of people down dead ends.  In every culture, we, the church, are directed to be salt and light.
  3. Many godly people chase employment in the organizational church, but that wasn’t God’s plan.  I know what I am saying about leadership and every member ministry can be felt to be threatening to persons in the status quo system, but it has no basis in scripture. It is only as a copy of the religions of the world, even when a position is held by a person seeking to honor Jesus.
  4. Each of us needs to desire to work for an ethical employer.  The believers in the early church who were slaves had no choice, and there may be times today where, for a time, we may have no choice, as our society is overrun with employers whose only honest jobs are the bottom line ones, but we should favor honest work with a passion.
  5. We have a responsibility to follow the teaching of the apostles, that helping the poor is important.  A problem today is that there are organizations created to help the poor, but whom use the money to support the organization and the people employed by the organization first.
  6. We have a responsibility to support our brothers and sisters who desire to go where the message of Jesus’ love for mankind still hasn’t been heard, even though those places, in this day, are the most dangerous places to go.

I can be reached at or by phone at 757-735-3639.  If you would like to re-examine what I just said at your own pace, a transcript of what I just said is posted on my blog,, on the entry dated August 27, 2011.  You can find out more about non-corporation structure of people desiring to be the church at 

As with many of these posts, various information in this was obtained from George Barna and Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity, which has, in turn, copious historical footnotes.  Some of what I have said here about employment in this society comes from my life, none of which has been spent on the payroll of any church organization, for which I feel grateful for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, even though I have many friends who have had the opposite experience.

An excellent work on the role of work in the Christian life is R. Paul Stevens’ The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective (Carlisle, UK: Pasternoster, 1999, and printed in North America jointly by Eerdmans and Regent College).

Thursday, August 25, 2011


            This is another rewrite of one of my two minute commentaries I posted in December, 2010, expanding the writing for a five minute time period.  This one expands #33 on feminism.


            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  In the Old Testament, women such as Deborah, Abigail, Ruth and Esther are presented in scripture as positive examples of faith and godliness, even though Israel and the societies around were male dominated, to the degree that, at the time of Jesus, some rabbis debated with each other as to whether women were even human, and forbade women to hear them teach from Tanak.  This was part of why Jesus’ speaking to the woman at the well was difficult for the disciples to understand, and possibly a part of why Mary had a problem with Martha sitting and listening to Jesus teach instead of helping prepare for the other guests.

            The prophet Joel, in chapter 2 verses 28 and 29, wrote “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams; your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and My maidservants I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” Phoebe, Junia, and Priscilla, Aquila’s wife, are referred to by words describing spiritually gifted leaders.  Lydia had a church meet at her house, which implies that she was the wealthiest person in that church, which is congruent with the fact that she was a seller of fabrics that were only legal for royalty to wear.  In Romans 16, where Paul ends his letter by greeting believers he knew there, there were only a couple of fewer women than men mentioned.  The Bible shows that men and women were equal in God’s eyes when it came to receiving salvation and receiving the giftings of the Holy Spirit, including the leadership gifts.

            Obviously, as the church was forced into the world’s structure common to nations, militaries, and businesses, what is now call chauvinism marked that structure.  The Reformation did not change that.  At the informal level, which tends to be where the Holy Spirit works most greatly, there has been a history of believing women in leading roles in the foreign mission, anti-slavery, and suffragette movements. The stand for equal rights for women was largely a Christian thing from the founding of the church at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 through the granting of the right to vote in the United States and Great Britain.  It needs to be pointed out that this was not necessarily reflected in recognition with the official church and denominational organizations of which these women were connected to.

            The world has rewarded men and penalized women for their gender through almost all of human history. In the early church, the world saw a new species with a different set of values even while the world was denying their right to exist, officially.  The early church saved female babies exposed by those following the tradition of infanticide in the area of Greece.  Eventually, the wealthy in the Empire trusted the Christians for caring for their money and children, because of their commitment before God to be honest, which, on the side, helped erode respect for the vacuous morality of the pagan myths at a practical level as much as the Greek philosophers’ criticism of the morality reflected in the myths was eroding it at the different level of Roman society.  The world oftentimes sees the now institutionalized church as just another social organization.  That’s part of the reason why it is rarely spoken about by today’s secular feminists, who only see an entrenched, male dominated organization, as opposed to scripture’s definition of a group of persons, male and female, young and old, of various races, ethnicities, and economic and social statuses, who have been made a new creation by Jesus, desiring, albeit not always succeeding, to follow the Spirit as He goes where He wills, and to be salt and light to a lost and dying world, and caring for the poor and downtrodden of all societies, races, classes, castes, and ethnicities as people made in God’s image and of whom He loves equally.

  I can be reached at or by phone at 757-735-xxxx.  You can see a transcript of what I just said along with references to more detailed work on this subject at my blog, tevyebird (spelled t-e-v-y-e-b-i-r-d), with the blog dated August 25, 2011.  For more information about organic church worldwide, visit,  and about organic church here in the Hampton Roads area at 

            An excellent book on a Christian-based feminism is Elaine Storkey’s “What’s Right With Feminism” (Eerdmans, 1985).  It is currently out of print, but it may well be found on sites such as or  For a couple of years, as I write this, there is a hint that the publisher, may re-release it, or possibly one may find it in an online version. She also has a sequel, “Origins of Difference”, published by Baker.  As Storkey is a theology professor in Great Britain, the writings reflect dealing with the most traditional institutional church situations and deal with the most complex level of intellectual debate on this subject, i.e. some parts are not easy reading and deal with debating liberal theological positions.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A little piece of self-examination

            I had this afternoon free, and, somehow, I wandered over to a Christian TV station, which, honestly, I rarely do, just because what I see all too often I feel is so extremely shallow, and in some way motivated toward expansion, usually financial, of the sponsoring organization.  I fully well understand that that is somewhat par for the course.  The organization cannot keep up a program without gifts being significantly greater than production costs.  Anyway, there was a famous female author speaking.  A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that, in spite of her being famous, I knew nothing about what she presented information on.  Therefore, having nothing better to do, I stopped and watched.  I was under the impression that she came from a background in which women couldn’t be considered preachers, and so she was a supposed expert on Bible studies for women.  I still haven’t looked up whether I am right or wrong on that impression.  I will say that what I heard this day sounded to me like an inspirational message.  The first thing that caught my ears was her mentioning being women of the New Testament church immediately after quoting a verse in Psalms.  In the fifteen minutes that followed, she quoted five other scriptures from the Old Testament.  She was speaking about looking to God to escape depression, which is OK.  Since she was quoting a psalm of David as an example of being able to look to God to overcome evil circumstances, I couldn’t help but think of the life of David. 

            He is an example of faith, and is one of the men who appear in the lineage of Jesus.  He also was a man who, as a king, lusted after the wife of one of his generals, got her pregnant, and then decided to cover it up by ordering the general to be in a place where he would get killed in battle.  He would have gotten away with it, except for God supernaturally telling the prophet.  By what I am saying, I am in no way defending Jimmy Swaggart, but given what he did, and his consequent unofficial ban from the Christian media and even some of the secular, what chance to be considered a man of faith would David have in today’s Christian media culture?  That is one reason why we have distortions in the larger church today.  If I had done some horrible act, and was infamous regionally to worldwide for it, but was somehow legally free, I cannot reasonably hope, apart from God setting up miraculous circumstances in my life, to ever be seen as a person who lives to honor Jesus by people who will never personally know me.  Among the few people who do know me, it is totally reasonable that, although it might take a significant period of time, I could eventually show myself as a person of honor because of what Jesus has done in me.

            Going back to the message I heard, this famous Christian woman presented what she had to say passionately, and she says that she could feel every time she presented this message how the women listening to her could relate to what she was saying.  She delivered this message excellently, but that is almost to be assumed, as she’s had years of practice.  The problem for me is that I’m not certain of the verses quoted are being used in context.  Given the inspirational nature of the message, in certainly wasn’t a Bible study in any sense of the word.  My question is:  Am I being too picky?  I think I could defend both sides of that question. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2057--clergy-laity divide

            In December, 2010, when I posted 100 two minute commentaries on various issues that are connected by the common thread that they are practices within traditional, corporate Christian churches that do not have a basis in scripture.  One of those was #57 on the apparent division between clergy and laity as different castes within the Christian faith.  Below, I have added additional information for a five minute time frame.

2057—clergy/laity divide

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  At the time Jesus walked the earth, all beliefs had priests, laypeople, temples, and sacrifices, and many cities and occupational skills were set up in a manner similar to a religion and actually acted as a belief to that city or group.  An example is Paul and the riot of the idol makers’ guild in Acts chapter 19, where a business trade and the city’s religion and its deviance and its profit centers are somewhat joined and confused.   When Jesus died, arose, ascended into heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in the people of his New Covenant, he made a chosen people with characteristics unlike anything seen before on earth.  He introduced to his followers spontaneity, worship and honor of God without structure and ritual.  Within each believer, male or female, Jew or Gentile, the desire was to honor Jesus with all that was in them, as worship was how one lived one’s life, as opposed to participation or observation of rituals by a separate caste of religious workers.  Leadership was informal, by experience, spiritual gifting from God, character, and obedience to the Holy Spirit.  Academic status and human certifications had nothing to do with it.

            How then did the church wind up with a structure like the other beliefs around it?  The apostles opposed it.  Third John verses 9 and 10 speak against a man who liked to have the preeminence.  Revelation chapter 2 verse 6 may also be a warning of such a division.  Our wanting official human leaders seems to be a human temptation, given that in the Old Covenant, God set up judges, but we see in First Samuel chapter 8 verse 19 that the people wanted a king, so God allowed it, with the warning that they would be unhappy with that choice later.  For many of us, the warning about preeminence guides some of us to avoid leadership, and others who are not careful about that and other warnings taking up an official leadership position on their own.

            There were elders, who meant experienced, mature believers, who were leaders with a group, but no one was over another.  Elder was not an office, as First Timothy chapter 3 verse 1 appears to imply. No word that means “office” is in the original Greek of the New Testament in that sentence.  Apostles, persons with a gift to start churches, did so and occasionally revisited those churches, and had others visit.  Also, we see Peter, Paul, and John sent letters, and the apostles and elders in Jerusalem sent a short letter than appears in Acts 15.  Those are examples of apostolic oversight. Notably, those letters weren’t sent to any head person, they were sent to all of the church.  Also, in opposition to the chauvinistic nature of ancient societies, the leaders were not necessarily male.  In Romans 16, Phoebe is mentioned in verse 1, Priscilla in verse 3, and Junia in verse 7 is called an apostle, which rankles certain people in authority today.

            Shortly after the legalization of Christianity by the Roman Empire, the church wound up with buildings, and people were needed to oversee those buildings.  Orators began to quote unquote convert, fill those jobs, then had a regular speaking place, and eventually formed a clergy class.

            The word laity comes from the Greek word laos, which meant people, which are God’s new chosen people by faith.  All believers belong to that class. Believers may have grown in maturity to function as elders, or be gifted in some way, but there is nothing in scripture that indicates that they were a separate class.  A clergy class was an idea imported from other sources.  The word clergy comes from the Greek word kleros, meaning an inheritance. Within the church, all believers, as a group, are the church, which is God’s house, the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit.  We are all, by faith, his inheritance.

            Today, we have some organizational church corporations that have supposed clergy class people who overtly admit to not believing the historic faith in Jesus, or avoid the subject to maintain their salary.

 You can reach me by email at or by phone at 757-735-xxxx.  You can read a transcript of what I just said on my blog,, at the blog entry for August 23, 2011.  You can find out more about believers in Jesus in this area being the church without corporation structures at .

For further background on this subject, including historical background footnotes, see Chapter 5 of George Barna and Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

2015--Church salaries, Mayhew

            After varying off of the normal theme of most of these blogs, I am returning to the major theme of writing commentaries for radio on the concept of allowing fellow believers in Jesus realize a train of thought that something called simple church exists.  This writing starts as a development off of #10—clergy salaries, which I wrote in December, 2010, but as opposed to a mere expansion of what I wrote then, I am taking this in a different direction based on an article I recently read that approaches this subject from a totally different angle, referring to this subject from the angle of a megachurch pastor who wrote an article for Christianity Today, from which he has the bravery to state conclusions which run exactly counter to a defense of his occupational position.  This article is on the web, and its address is below my commentary.

2015—clergy salaries, Mayhew

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute

A while ago, I read an article by a man named Ray Mayhew, a megachurch senior pastor in the Chicago area entitled, “Embezzlement: Corporate Sin of Contemporary Christianity”.  What he writes about is not the actual legal problem in modern society that every day, in the U.S., an average of five and a half million dollars is being embezzeled from one Christian church or another by persons entrusted with the monies collected, which is in and of itself a significant problem, but a matter of the heart that is connected to how over half of all money in today’s churches are spent.

  The subject of the article is what the church was like in the day that was the cultural context that the books of Acts through Revelation were written about, with respect to the subject of helping the poor.  Mayhew concluded that the early church, which I might remind you were underground groups in cities and towns, first in Jerusalem and Israel, then around the Roman Empire--that those groups were officially illegal.  Therefore, they had no fixed expenses, unlike the temples of Roman paganism.  They collected money for only two things—first, helping the poor, both within the group of believers in Jesus, and in helping their neighbors and, secondly, helping to send apostles, which meant gifted and mature fellow believers to be able to go places where the message of Jesus had not been communicated, help guide persons there to faith in Jesus, and teach them how to be the church, God’s group of people desiring to live to honor him, both as individuals and, more importantly, as a group.  Even then, the example of an apostle that the New Testament tells us the most about, Paul, in having formerly been a Pharisee and having had to learn to make tents, had a culturally transferrable skill such that he didn’t need to be tied to receiving funds from his church home, Antioch in what would be now modern Israel, as he traveled to as far away as modern Spain.

            Now, this conclusion had some personal problems for the writer, who, you might recall, I said was the head person of a megachurch in a modern suburb.  The example of the early church leaves no room for 1) his salary, as a local leader of a congregation, 2) his position, as, a paid local leader by any name did not exist back then, and 3) his responsibility over a religious corporation that 4) owned buildings that need to be maintained.  In the article, Mayhew only brings up only points 1) and 4), but publicly recognizing just one or two is a theological and ethical dilemma he addresses slightly, and doesn’t offer any resolution to. 

            I believe the reason for not offering a solution is because there is none. I do wish to show respect to his publicly mentioning the problem. I know there are others in his position aware of these problems, but are not going out of their way, as he did, to mention them, particularly where in those who are not in the clergy class might hear them.  If you are listening to me today, this is a problem that is not the making of any pastor or denominational leader or anyone on earth today.  In the 3rd century, the Roman Empire forced the church--whether intentionally or not, I have no clue--to adopt the ways of beliefs they were familiar with, which included buildings and specially trained religious ritual performers and heads over organizations in a manner similar to governments, the military, and businesses.  The problem is that that was not then or now based on scripture.  Governments, businesses, and the military have leadership grids, with one person at the top.  The tradition has been passed down from generation to generation.  In a fallen world, it works.  In the Bible, Jesus is Head of the church, and there are believers, of which some are more mature, some have a spiritual gift that another doesn’t, but are are equal in being before God, and equally a child of God. Today, if one is a leader of a corporate church, and one realizes this problem, that the corporate structure with expending most of the money collected on itself isn’t scriptural, it isn’t a matter of just refusing to accept a salary.  In almost all cases, the people on the staff have families to support, bills to pay, and almost no businesses find theological training of use to them, particularly in the amount of persons who have such training in our society’s job market, which, I might say, is where the vast majority of persons who are not believers are spending 40 or more hours per week.  I wish to believe that none of us care for this observation of A. W. Tozer:  “The church is like a constitutional monarchy, where Jesus is allowed the title, but has no authority to make any decisions.”

            For more information on simple forms of worship of Jesus in this area, visit, on the web,  To contact me, visit  or call 757-7xx-xxxx. To read what I just said, I have it on my blog,, as the entry dated August 21, 2011.

            To read the article I referred to in this commentary, you can find it at:

            The Tozer quote is from a sermon, “A New Type of Preacher”,

            The statistic on actual embezzlement is from Barrett & Johnson, World Christian Trends, p. 3, quoted by Steven S. Lyzenga, Assessing the State of Simple Churches in the USA Regarding Resources Toward Finishing the Great Commission, p.19, .

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Top High School Football QBs as reality show

            I have indicated in the past that I am, to a degree, a sports fan.  Over the years, that aspect of my life has changed.  Growing up in Michigan, I felt that it was somewhat natural to be a fan of the Detroit professional teams.  By the time I was a teen, it was clear that I was more a fan of baseball and football, given that, since I grew up near Grand Rapids, a good three hour trip from Detroit, and the Tigers and Lions marketed themselves to the whole state, and the Pistons and Red Wings did not at that time, probably because the Wings could fill their stadium without it, and the Pistons just were inept at marketing at the time.

            Becoming a believer in Jesus in 1968, I realized that football was my best sport, although still quite average.  I also realized that the professional level was extremely violent and the way people were treated was far from ideal.  That is still a problem to me, but, and this is no excuse, a sport with 16, and if it goes to 18 it will be no different, games can be easily followed by an adult busy with working, whereas the 162 in baseball, 80 plus in basketball and hockey are impossible to follow all of unless a kid or retired. In 1985-6, the Pistons were the top team in basketball, but played the game with a type of thuggery that just didn’t feel right to most people, and the blunt truth is that the team had a bunch of moral zeros playing; the day they won the championship, 5 of the 12 players had paternity suits filed against them somewhere.

            The rise of cable TV has effected sports.  My job just reminded me about 976 phone numbers; in case you didn’t realize it, they still exist.  The one time I used one was to hear a Detroit sports report.  Today, with cable TV, I can find out more than I could possibly wish to know, including a European sports channel which includes sports I’ve never seen, and professional teams of which I have no clue what city they play in. 

            A few years ago, ESPN, here in the U.S., started covering the top 150 high school players in football and basketball, are what colleges they committed to play for.  Now, this part, to a degree, I get.  Even if the colleges lose some money on sports, the schools being consistently mentioned on TV feeds the egos of college presidents, boards of directors, alumni (most of which, unlike myself, make above average incomes), and faculty members, and then make it easier to attract better faculty members and the research faculty have an easier time of getting grant money out of the federal government.  The trade-off of having a few college “students” who have no business being in college makes a strange kind of sense when it ties into power politics.

            All this is to lead into something new that I saw ESPN do yesterday.  Somewhere, there has been a summer camp for the best few (this year, 24) soon to be high school quarterbacks in the country.  This year, ESPN’s Trent Dilfer, who about 20 years ago was the first player chosen in their draft, and had a OK, not great career, but did get to be the winning QB in a Super Bowl, was a part of this camp’s staff, and ESPN filmed the camp, coaches discussions, etc., and made the camp into a reality program.  Now, its not even that these 24 are going to get better scholarship offers, because it appeared that most have already committed to a large university (gee, I didn’t send out a college application until early my senior year, and I remember how angry my dad got trying to figure out all the information the scholarship application demanded—but it was worse then than now).

            It’s just weird.  That a few high school kids, albeit talented, get put onto a national pedestal, because it helps a large corporation make money (ESPN is owned by ABC, which is, in turn, owned by Disney), while another portion of our educational system and society is all messed up, as documented by that same ESPN a day later by showing their documentary on the social problems that spawned the attitudes about University of Miami (FL) football in the mid-1980’s to late 1990’s and what that said about racial divisons in the U.S.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What the Carlson & Longman book review has to do with simple/organic church

One of the nice things, for me, about being a part of a house church is getting up Sunday morning and catching up on what’s been going on in the world during the week via CNN’s Candy Crowley (for national political news), Fareed Zakaria (for international news), and Howard Kurtz (for the role of the media).  I know that one could cogently argue that the first two subjects could be better done via newspapers and magazines, but since I have cable in my house, and no place with excellent place for reading, it works for me to the degree that I wish to apply myself to it.  With regard to the media, I subtly learned via Inter-Varsity’s HIS magazine, which by now has been replaced by a website for many years now, that the way media, which in this case includes not only radio, TV, but also books, newspapers, internet news, art forms and any and every other method that develops, covers and does not cover various issue and societal patterns is in itself a pattern of what the present and future holds.

            From that point of view, I wish to explain why I put in the review of the Carlson and Longman book last blog.  I can picture why, for some, it does not fit into the general theme of my blog, which deals with house/simple/organic church.  I will begin to explain via a story.  A few years ago, I was involved in a traditional church in Florida.  The senior pastor was apparently a lively, interesting person to hear speak.  Over a period of five years, I came to learn that he dropped out of high school, went to police academy so that he was able to join the local police shortly after or at becoming 18.  He stated that he originally accepted Jesus as Savior at a young age, fell away, and came back to following Jesus actively at about 21 as a result of God speaking to him to either follow or that He would leave him alone, which he took as a “last call” to either follow God’s ways or not.  My wife volunteered in the church office for about a year. 

            One day, I saw a man at that church who led, of sorts, the “men’s ministry” in the grocery store on a Friday afternoon.  I say, of sorts, in that this brother and his wife had a fairly extensive ministry plan for the community, of which his volunteering to lead the men’s ministry was a part.  It was heavily involved with helping poor persons fix basic needs, such as leaky roofs, build a ramp for handicapped persons, etc.  Over the course of over a year (I no longer remember how much over a year), half or more of the men involved with this were not a part of the church we went to.  This man was somewhat torn as to whether go through the paperwork of establishing this as a separate not-for-profit or closely tie this to our home church.  There were benefits to each course of action.  Anyway, in speaking to him for a moment, he ended the conversation with, “I’ll see you Sunday.”  It so happens that I didn’t see him Sunday, but as we know, things can happen.  Somehow, I wound up calling him the following Friday.  I was on a phone which had an overly loud speaker in the handset.  Just as my wife was walking through the room, he told me over the phone that between when I saw him on Friday and Sunday, the senior pastor told him not to come to that church anymore.  When I got off the phone, my wife told me she would not go back there.  We had a discussion, and I found out that she put up with going to that church because she believed I liked going to it, and I was continuing to go there because I believe she liked it.  Both of us had seen that things happened in that church only because the senior pastor liked it, and, through the stories he had told, it was clear that he liked being the head person so things he was concerned about happened, and things that would be corrective in his life were rejected, unless it came from his father or mother’s mouth. 

            At this time, I worked in a Home Depot, in a city of about 20,000.  As such, anyone who knew me knew where to find me.  After a few weeks of my leaving, when it was clear that I had left, a number of people who knew me walked up to me asking a variety of questions.  It became clear that this pastor had some personal problems everyone who knew him, except himself, could see, and anyone who either attempted to speak to him about such was either intimidated to stop talking to him or asked to leave.

            The point of the above story is, that while Matthew 18:15-17 (I am quoting NKJV) says, 15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector,”* with the structure traditional churches have, it is difficult to go to the established leaders when they are wrong.  Moreso, when, due to the unique aspect of our modern society, leaders come to influence large numbers of persons via TV and radio by means of their eloquence and personality, combined with the limitation of the media, that the average person can hear what they have to say in detail, but they cannot hear from the other direction, even if such person was in your city getting access to such person would be near impossible, and it is even more difficult to get someone to understand something when their salary, reputation, and, might I suggest sometimes even ego, depends on their not understanding it, to paraphrase Sinclair.

            Therefore, the importance of the Carlson and Longman book is that, while the facts line up behind their point of view, both scientifically and theologically, most of the best known names in Christian teaching, might I even say, the celebraties, either do not touch this subject, or teach the super-literalistic view because, either they believe it is correct and/or that is what the people who give the money that keeps “their ministry” going and growing expect and/or they are riding the tide of momentum, in that what they taught made more sense 200 years ago, so it is not worth fighting the tide and/or they cannot be personally confronted.  One person in leadership with a personality to attract others can lead (either intentionally or not) many in an incorrect direction.  We live in a society, here in the U.S., where much of our society fears the overly charismatic leader, as they can see at the secular level what has come of societies persons such as Hitler, and within organized Christian structures where all kinds of pastors have taken positions on one subject or another that is obviously incorrect, of which, to an unbeliever, there appears to be no corrective action.  From inside the fellowship of believers in Jesus, there is the one of quietly leaving by the back door and never returning (an option sometimes not available in a dictatorship).

            What I am saying is not just that house/simple/organic church is not merely more correct theology, but also that this problem is alieviated by the church being small enough to self correct.  If someone stands up with an off track teaching, any other believer can correct such a situation.  Further, if no one has their living based on “being the leader”, and no money is collected by an organization which can be directed by the leader (intentionally or not) to hype his/her special idea, it cannot grow further off track.

            Now, an aspect of this is that in, not just every church, but every group of people, some who will just “go with the flow”.  In my story above, because that church is in an area which has consistent population growth, for all the people who quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) leave, people new to the area have allowed that church to grow slowly in membership, helped by the pastor putting his really entertaining sermons on cable TV.  Now, its kind of obvious that I take a fairly intellectual approach to how I approach desiring to follow Jesus, and, as I mentioned above, this pastor, for his ability to naturally lead and captivate persons by his speech, wasn’t great in intellectual achievement.  My wife, long after we left, told me one day that it was mentioned to her, whether by this pastor or someone else, I’m not sure, that he didn’t always understand what I said.  Obviously, being “the pastor”, he couldn’t admit it.  Too bad, maybe he, I, and who knows how many others might have learned something about following Jesus.


*This quotation needs be balanced from scripture with Lev. 19:17, Prov. 25:9, Mt. 18:14, 21, Lk. 17:3, 1 Cor. 9:19, Gal. 6:1, 2 Th. 3:15, Titus 3:10, James 5:19.  I believe if one examines all these scriptures, it proves that I have quoted this in proper understanding with what is in other scriptures on this subject.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book Review: Science Creation and the Bible by Carlson and Longman

Book Review:

            Richard F. Carlson and Tremper Longman III, “Science, Creation, and the Bible”, Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011.

            Richard F. Carlson is a professor of physics who also hols a masters degree in theology.  Carlson edited “Science and Christianity: Four Views” in 2000.  Tremper Longman III is a long time theology professor, who has written a number of texts in the field.  The publisher, IVP, has for decades specialized in books with the goal of being simultaneously faithful to the historic Christian faith and correct intellectual understanding with regard to a variety of issues, with particular emphasis on those points which are commonly seen in either secular intellectual culture or popular Christian culture as being in conflict.                                                                                              Certainly current understanding of the origins of the universe and life, and what appears in the Bible as commenting on creation of the universe and life fits into that description.  Possibly there is no subject which has more misunderstanding, both among believers and among those in mainline scientific circles.  No doubt, this is in part due to very public statements of Christian leaders who have built a public platform to speak, combined with minimal education with regard to specifics of modern science.  Key in this is the question:  How do we believers understand Genesis 1 and 2 in light of the discoveries of the scientific community over the last 200 years?  Carlson and Longman are both highly experienced in dealing with this question, one from the side of physics, which is now the premier jumping off point from the scientific side of the question, the other from the side of Christian theology.  The authors maintain the the question is answerable while maintaining orthodox Christian belief, but it is not a simple answer, and cannot be answered simplistically while desiring to be the “salt and light” believers are commanded to be towards the unbelieving world.  Therefore, any believer desiring to answer this question in 25 words or less, possibly even 25 minutes of less, will be disappointed.  Carlson give a complex, nuanced explanation which is connected to both science, especially physics, and that part of theology that deals with the literary and cultural contexts of the various parts of scripture. 

            For those who have not been exposed to this discussion according to the state of the art over the last couple of decades, the creation discussion is connected to the origin of the universe, not the biological discussion, which is only even mentioned in one sentence.  This book is slightly shorter than the normal published book at 141 pages, but none of it, in my opinion, is filler.  The whole book builds up aspects of the discussion as to why the authors hold the view that they present at the conclusion.  This is not an easy reading book, but still understandable to an average person willing to intellectually engage in some nuanced subject matter.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Book Review: The Pastor Has No Clothes by Jon Zens

The Pastor Has No Clothes: Moving from Clergy-Centered Church to Christ-Centered Ekklesia, by Jon Zens (Lincoln, NE: Ekklesia Press, 2011)

            This is the book that has taught me the most about following Jesus in spirit and truth that I have read so far this year.

            Jon Zens is a man who holds training in Christian theology through doctoral level, but, by the end of that training, concluded that what the New Testament shows us to be the way the church was to operate is what God meant, and what we see in western society is that tradition, having been morphed by various political and social movements through history, changed practices in the church to the degree that it does not reflect what Jesus taught the apostles, who, in turn, taught the early church.  In Jon’s previous works, he dealt with the difference between the early church meeting in homes informally as opposed to the tradition prevalent since the Roman Empire’s Edict of Tolerance of having buildings, paid staff, and ritual, in “A Church Building Every ½ Mile” and the role of women, which was uniquely equal before God and the rest of believers in “What’s With Paul and Women?” 

In “The Pastor Has No Clothes”, Jon deals with the difference between the early church, where believers met informally, and understood themselves to be responsible for each other’s growing in faith to the modern formal service dominated by one person designated in most institutional churches as a pastor or priest.

            The title, obviously, is a play on words off of Hans Christian Andersen’s children’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, where the Emperor is conned, but the people fear speaking out until a little boy says, “The Emperor has no clothes.” The pasted together look of the front cover is further symbolic of the content.  The not subtle comparison is that the pastoral office (not the persons holding the position specifically) is treated with dictatorial respect, without regard to the wisdom or lack that comes from the position by historical (not biblical) tradition.

            The forward to the book states a main point—the division between clergy and laity is unscriptural; the first word comes from the Greek kleros, which means the inheritance, and all believers, by faith are the inheritance, and the Greek laos, which means the people, and all believers are God’s people.  Both words referred to all believers.  From there, the first sixty pages breaks down in simple English what the church that was trained by the apostles were taught about their common life of living for Jesus, and how the Roman Empire and later social and political moves distorted the church in later times, with the result of the church largely losing much of its unique flavor in contrast to the world, going from believers “edifying each other” as in 1 Thessalonians 5:ll changed to one person in charge of a formal organization, being somehow divinely called to this work (although no one ever explains how that works), teaching others forever, and being in charge of everything.  This is explained in a manner that is readable for the average person.

            In pages 61 to 70, which is an introduction to the balance of the book, he examines some of the ideas Eugene Peterson, the lead translator to “The Message” Bible, seminary professor, and pastor, has in his recent memoir of his days as a pastor, and his mother’s experience of preaching in the towns of Montana.  Jon uses this reference in that, in the memoir, Eugene points out certain difficulties with being a pastor, which correspond to the basic problems all pastors have today, and shows how the main problems tie to traditions that are not based on anything scriptural.

            The rest of the book builds a theological argument.  If one isn’t into reading theology, and Zens’ writing is not nearly as complicated to read as much of the writing today in the field, these first 70 pages are worth getting the whole book. For persons in a pastoral position, I wish I could buy a copy of this for each believer occupying such a position (and I say believer in that, for persons holding church office who are not believers in Jesus, this whole argument is irrelevant to them).  If one has the mental wherewithal to read theology, the conclusion Jon draws at the end I will say is surprising enough to keep everyone who cares about living to glorify Jesus .reading to the end. 

            Other writers have pointed out that the word “pastor” comes from a Greek word meaning “shepherd” and of which is translated “shepherd” the other 17 times it appears in the New Testament, which questions whether its appearance in an English Bible is even appropriate. Surprisingly, to me, Jon never brings up this point either in the general reading or the theological argument part of the book.  He does discuss what the Greek word ekklesia, commonly translated “church”, meant to the early church, and what its clearest, not tradition-distorted, equivalent would be today.  To me, that fact was worth the price and time of buying and reading this.

            In buying my copy, I am aware than many Christian bookstores will not carry this title due to Zens’ reputation for challenging the status quo ( included, as of last week), but has it, and, given that Jon runs a bookstore in Wisconsin, I’m sure his website, has it.