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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Simple Church Minute 4--ordination (revised)

            As I wrote a period of time ago, I am going to attempt to republish the first blogs I did, the two minute versions of Simple Church Minute, with improved footnotes for anyone wishing to review where I got these ideas from.

This is read at a really fast pace to get into 2 minutes.

4—ordination
My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.
            In the early church, elders came about through time.  In the world, an elder meant one of the older, experienced persons.  In the church, it meant one not just physically older, but experienced as a believer, who had grown to spiritual maturity.  It was not a title as used today.  There are three places where elders were recognized, and in one, First Timothy chapter 3 verse 1, there had been 14 years between the time of the founding of the church and the recognition of elders.  This recognition was only recognizing seniority and godly service these persons had been doing in all those intervening years.  A believer should be growing day by day into this role from the day of first believing on Jesus to the day one passes away, without regard to whether there is any person to comment on it.
            The word “ordain” did not mean to place into an official position.  In the early church, there was only one office—head of the church, occupied by Jesus.  Ordain meant to recognize and endorse what was already taking place, insofar as believers desiring to serve Jesus.  How did ordination get its meaning of placing a person into an official position?  The ordination ceremony was borrowed from the Roman ceremony for appointing civil servants, even to some of the words used in it.  By the 3rd century, ordination became a ritual that marked a person passing from laity to clergy.  After the Edict of Milan, which made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire, church leadership became interconnected with the societal structure of Rome.  Gregory of Nyassa said the priest, as was the title at the time, by ordination was (quote) invisibly but actually a different, better man. (unquote)
            That was far from what the apostles taught the early believers.  First Peter 5 verses 2 and 3 directed, which commands, “shepherd, serve, willingly, not dishonest, eagerly, not as lords, examples.”  This is not to be critical of traditional church pastors; almost all honestly desire to see the church of Jesus go forward.  Its just that there isn’t solid scriptural precedent for our traditional structure.
            You can email me at simplechurchminute@gmail.com.  For more info on organic church*, visit http://www.simplechurch.com/ or (an area’s local website).  A transcript of this talk is at tevyebird.blogspot.com, in the blog dated April 29, 2012.
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On the recording, at this time, it says, “house churches.”  While that phrasing is OK, to say “organic church” is better.  I comment on that in blip 94.
            The ideas included in this talk can be found in George Barna and Frank Viola’s book, Pagan Christianity, pages 123-130, which, in turn, will have copious footnotes of historical sources.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tyranny of the Urgent

            I indicate on my blog list that one of those blogs I read is Beyond Evangelical by Frank Viola.  I would guess that many who stumble upon this blog read his, at least occasionally, as his is one of, if not the, foremost, on the subject matter I attempt to write on.  On his writing of April 24, titled 10 Ways You Can Waste Your Time as a Christian, two of the points he makes (numbers 3 and 4) can be summarized as “stay busy” and “neglect reading the Scriptures.”
            Upon reading this, it reminded me of a little booklet I first heard of when I was in college, printed by Inter-Varsity, titled “Tyranny of the Urgent.”  I didn’t check, before writing this, whether it is still in print, but if it isn’t, there is another writing to take its place.  Since the Industrial Revolution, western society has moved faster and faster.  I remember reading some futurist in about 1970 (although the term hadn’t been coined yet) predicting that the maximum work week would need to be cut to 30 hours, as computers would make work more efficient.  From this point, we can look back and see that, to the converse, technology has made things go faster and make our work have to go it a faster, and therefore, more stressful manner.  The tyranny of the urgent has only been cranked up over the last 40 years.
            As I have written earlier, I am disabled insofar as doing a normal 40 hour a week job.  Upon reading Viola’s writing, the Spirit convicted me of still being in the trap of feeling a need to stay busy constantly, to fight to prove that I am at least attempting to be economically useful, a task that I have struggled with my adult life.  As for reading Scripture, back in college, at the same time that I was introduced to the concept of Tyranny of the Urgent, for the purpose of being aware not to fall into the trap of the world’s constant pressure to do something, as opposed to following the Spirit’s guidance, which is sometimes “stop, and be aware, and worship and honor Jesus, the Savior and Guide to His people, I also became aware of the idea of the Daily Quiet Time.  As a matter of daily doing a DQT of at least 15 minutes, I will say I have failed more often than succeeded, if one considers it to be specifically reading a piece of the Word, creating questions about the passage, and answering them, preferably on paper.  Later in life, I grasped the idea that a DQT consists of a) reading a piece of Scripture, b)studying the piece of Scripture (which can include reading writings about it), c) prayer, and d) meditating on the Word.  As the years went by, meditating on the Word, in a sense, became easier as I had more experience in life, and situations that related to any part of the Word, and, somewhat unique to this culture, meditating on the Word can be done simultaneously with repetitive work and vehicle driving.  Still, it reminded me that I haven’t done as much reading Scripture that wasn’t connected with a subject that I was immediately concerned with, which over the past three years, has had much to do with the ideas connected with simple church.  The point, in my spirit, is to do so as to honor Jesus, as opposed to a legalism.
            One thing that I have noticed over the past couple of months among the blogs I read is dealing with subjects within following Jesus that do not have to do with getting back to the original meaning of church.  Felicity Dale has been writing about outreach.  I have become aware through that how few people I actually come in contact with during the week (as she writes from the same position of working mainly alone).  This blog helps me put the brakes on the little things in life that call, “Do me now” to stop and consider what the Holy Spirit is doing in and around me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bell

            About 12 ½ years ago, my wife wanted an English mastiff puppy.  As, at that time, I was able to work and had sufficient money to fulfill that wish, we bought one from a breeder in another state.  She was 12 weeks old, and was named Bell.  About 5 weeks later, over the period of a couple of days, she lost most of her hearing.  Over time, we realized that she could hear a loud party a couple of miles away, as we lived in the country, and there was someone a couple of miles away who occasionally threw loud parties, but for most everyday communication, she learned hand signals.  We also learned that, as we attempted to get her attention, we were making hand signals.  As is common for mastiffs, she rarely barked, and usually because she saw other dogs around her barking.  She was never aggressive, but by size alone, brought about a healthy wariness among strangers to happened into our area.
            Over the years, just as with people, she became more sedentary, just due to age.  I believe that the average age for this breed is nine years, so she had a long life, but last Saturday evening, she lost the ability to stand up for herself.  Therefore, on Monday, I (because, in my family, such things always fall to me) took her to the vet to put her to sleep.  I found out that she over these last months since her last visit to the vet had lost weight down to 100 pounds (she was through much of her life about 130).  As I am not in excellent physical condition myself, I was able to get her to the vet via putting her on a padded two-wheel cart, as one would normally use to move boxes around, and a Tommy Lift on my son’s truck.  That she just laid on that two-wheeled cart was an indication of her condition.  Fortunately for both her and me, the vet was only about a mile away.
            It was a reminder to me of why I attempt to do this blog.  A few years ago, the movie called “Bucket List” came out.  I’ve not seen it, but one doesn’t need to, to understand the point.  There are certain things one wishes to do, everyday life can easily get in the way, and one doesn’t have the strength to do them at the last minute.  Personally, I really don’t care to go to exotic places or do exotic things.  I’ve been to both coasts here in the U.S., I’ve lived in the North (Michigan) and in the South (Florida), and have lived the last 7 ½ years in a place that I never had any desire to even visit (south east Virginia).  What is important to me is to live for Jesus, that I might affect, in some positive way, one person, and then another.  I know that I am not an excellent “people person”, as much as I might wish to be.  I’m more a person for quiet thinking, when I can, which isn’t every day, anymore.  Physical limitations, at least for me, have focused me upon what is important.  When growing up, I heard what, to me, was the syrupy sentimental rhyme, “Only one life/Will soon be past/Only what’s done/ For Christ will last.”  I flat well know it was oftentimes used in a way that was unintentionally disingenuous, to fit into a Christendom society, which was more what this society was when I was growing up, but it has a stronger ring of truth when one gets older.
            Still, the thinking part of the brain doesn’t age.  When my funeral comes, would somebody please play “Breakfast in Hell” by the Newsboys, just for shock value to any unbelievers that show up?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Some more thoughts on leadership

Over the past couple of months, I have written few blogs because the medications I was taking was off balance, and I was constantly feeling even too tired to write. As I wrote about a week ago, that has been resolved. Yesterday, I actually felt like reading. As I have indicated before, one of the subjects I concentrate on is leadership.

I got my first does of it when I turned on the tv in the morning. I usually catch sports on ESPN’s Mike & Mike Show, where the lead story was of a baseball manager publicly criticizing one of his veteran players before discussing the subject with him in private. The conversation was centered on the idea of: Was this a stupid thing to do that will mess up the team, or is it a “crazy like a fox” move that will draw the team together, even if it draws the team together against the head guy? There is no answer to that question today, the part of the world that cares will see the answer in the team’s results over the next six months.

During the day, I was running some errands for my son on a schedule that left large amounts of down time. About a week ago, I purchased the book Master Leaders by George Barna. While in this blog I have quoted Barna heavily on his work on the subject of simple church, the main thing he is known for is research on the place of Christians and their faith in our society, and how it changes. For this book, he has interviewed 30 persons we could consider leaders, be it in business, politics, military, and church. He (and others) have communicated that we are affected in our emotions and spirits more strongly via story versus a series of facts, which is reflected in how telling the story of Jesus is moving, reading a cathechism in outline form is about as far from moving as something can get. Therefore, with the quoted persons’ permission, he has taken what he got out of these interviews, and woven them into a story of a leadership conference, in which all these persons are backstage at the conference in a discussion. This isn’t a review, as I only made it to page 30 yesterday. I will say that the quote from Mike Huckabee on page 19 is worth reading the book for.

Since mentioning Huckabee brings up the issue of faith and politics, I caught offhand the study Rick Santorum has been quoting which says that if one graduates from high school, works, and gets married before having kids, the chances of being in poverty are 2%. I looked it up this morning, and can see that there are some minor distortions in that statement by itself, which is normal whenever one boils down a serious work to one sentence, but I was interested in that, before I became unable to work, I walked that 2% borderline with a bachelor’s degree. It appears to me that the reference to that study just might shed more heat than light onto modern society’s social problems, not the least of which is where the poverty line is, given that different groups define it so differently, and inflation/deflation makes it an ever moving target.

To all that, a though crossed my head late last evening. One was a quote from John C. Maxwell, a writer on leadership, trained as a pastor, favorite of megachurch pastors, albeit his writings are as much aimed at the business community, which is: If you think you are a leader, and no one is following, you’re just taking a walk. This implies that, to a degree, numbers are important (and numbers of people are what define megachurches). On the other hand, if Jesus defined church in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them”, the whole paradigm of the most important leaders being persons who are listened to by the most persons is stood on its head. I learned before I even realized it that a huge amount of persons “follow” a person they do not like or agree with because of collecting a paycheck. Hang around military types and one can see the paradox of super-patriotism with constant groveling about the “hurry up and wait” process in the military that is an anathema in the business community which is extremely conscious of getting its value out of the employee time they are paying for. Most of us who are everyday believers in Jesus feel, to a degree, hurt and betrayed by those “leaders” who have used God’s funds in scandal (particularly when the use is officially legal), or have personally promoted what is spectacular and exciting over what is solid, if unexciting, basic wisdom in following Jesus.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On Psalm 22:1 and the work of the Holy Spirit

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking at Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 with regard to a discussion at my church in the coming weeks on the prophecies about Jesus, of which these two chapters are among the most obvious. In reading over those passages, the idea that struck my spirit most greatly is in Psalm 22:1. David wrote this while on the run from Saul, we believe, and the first sentence, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" was quoted by Jesus while dying on the cross. David, for even being guided to write this for scripture (however that worked), apparently felt forsaken. We understand that Jesus, in the process of dying for our sins, albeit being God in human form, had a level of His all-powerfulness unavailable to Him during that time, and repeats the statement. This tells us something about the work of the Holy Spirit upon us in that, no matter how much I might allow my spirit to wander, or feel depressed as in the "long, dark night of the soul" time, I have never felt forsaken. When I think of "God forsaken", I think of some other planet that is impossible to live upon, but even then, somehow, its minor gravitational pull somehow does something to make this planet more habitable. Being not a scientist, I don’t understand too much about that, although what little I know is more than most other people of past generations.

God hasn’t forsaken me. He is watching over me. Maybe I’ll be forgotten (or never known) by almost everyone on this planet shortly after I die, and I’ll probably never do anything famous or infamous (and in this sinful world, if I was allowed by God to be the vessel of doing anything significant, to far more it would be infamous), God is watching and caring. Conversely, much of what passes for what is important or news today to the world, while not uncared about by God, doesn’t necessarily stand out in importance in the same way, as God sees the hearts of the people involved. That’s hard to get either my head (intellect) or spirit around.

I’m not forsaken. God knows my heart. He has a better idea of why He puts things into my spirit than I ever will. This I am learning to a greater degree as I move into a part of my life in which my physical stamina is limited. I think of the line from "If I Were a Rich Man" which Tevye pleads, "Would it change some great eternal plan,…?" Yes, it would.   This tells us something of the way the Holy Spirit works in the believer's life and in the world, but, as usual, in a way that defies our western way of dissecting something.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Simple Church Minute #5--baptism (revised)

This is another update of the transcript of one of the two-minute versions of Simple Church Minute.  In this case, the only correction is the addition of a footnote at the bottom, and that it has a unique posting date.  When I originally posted these, I posted a number of them on the same date, which isn't a good thing when referencing these.
5—baptism
My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.
In the early church, baptism was a sign of initial confession of faith in Jesus. One can find in the New Testament that baptism and faith are used like synonyms. Somewhere in the 2nd century, the two started getting divided, with most baptisms taking place on Easter. By the 4th century, official church leadership had taken over instruction and direction of new believers to the degree that a person had to wait 3 years to be baptized. The baptism ceremony became a rigid ritual that borrowed from Jewish and Greek culture. Somewhere along this path, a teaching got started that only baptism forgave sins, and if one committed a sin after baptism, it was unforgivable. Some, like Emperor Constantine, waited until just before dying to be baptized. With such a weakened physical state among those wishing to be baptized, the idea came about that, since baptism was a sign of belief, as opposed to actually washing something away, if a person was so ill that they would not be able to withstand immersion, a sample amount of water—sprinkling on the forehead—was a sufficient sign.
With the disconnection between faith and baptism, infant baptism came along, being taught as the New Covenant equivalent to Old Covenant circumcision, with reference to a case in the New Testament where someone was baptized (quote) and their entire household. (unquote)
Another interesting connected ritual that has come along this past century has been the insistence of those in some flavors of the church that hold to the literal adult believer’s baptism to call it “water baptism,” as if those who do not follow that direction are somehow not using water. In biblical days, the Greek word “baptidzo” was also used for the process of pickling pickles and dying cloth, but there isn’t any confusion about that anymore—at least, I don’t think so.
You can email me at simplechurchminute@gmail.com. For more info on organic simple church*, go to http://www.simplechurch.com/ or locally, (local website). A transcript of what I have just said is on my blog, tevyebird.blogspot.com, posted May 11, 2012.
On the recording, at this time, it says, “house churches.” While that phrasing is OK, to say “organic church” is better. I comment on that in blip 94.
Information used in this commentary comes from George Barna and Frank Viola's book, Pagan Christianity, (Tyndale/Barna)  in Chapter 9.  There one can find copious footnotes to back up these statements.