Written by Sam Logan Wednesday, 22 August 2012 00:00

NOTE: This blog addresses a subject which will also be addressed by Dr. Bryan Maier on September 3.  Comments about either or both blogs are welcome.

A recent editorial in the New York Times (August 5, 2012) was entitled “Truculence Before Truth” and was sharply critical of the ways in which both Democrats (in this specific instance, Harry Reid) and Republicans (in this specific instance, John Boehner) play fast and loose with the truth.  Here is one conclusion in that editorial:

Spew first and sweat the details later, or never.  Speak loosely and carry a stick-thin collection of back-up materials, or none at all.  That’s the M. O. of the moment, familiar from the past but in particularly galling and profuse flower of late.

Oh, but that’s the secular press!  Christians never do that kind of thing!


My perception is that Christians, evangelical and otherwise, are at least as guilty of such truculence as others.

But whether my perception of Christians is correct or not, surely we who bear name of the One who identified Himself as “the way, the truth, and the life,” have a special responsibility in public discourse and that responsibility remains the same no matter what others say about us.

What is that responsibility? Here are four suggestions:

1) Tell the truth.

Speak out vigorously in support of what we perceive to be right and in opposition to what we perceive to be wrong.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s statement is no less true for being famous: Silence in the face of evil is itself evil;  God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

In a forthcoming book entitled “How [and Why] To Be Missional and Reformed,” Basyle Tchividjian and Diane Langberg (both of them Adjunct Faculty members at Biblical) describe how critically important it is for Christians not to be silent in the face of sin and, while the specific sin they are addressing is sexual abuse, the points they make have broad application. Diane even draws a powerful link between silence and genocide, a point she made at Biblical’s conference on sexual trafficking in March of 2011.

As the Westminster Larger Catechism says in its interpretation of Exodus 20:16,  the duties required in the Ninth Commandment include “. . . appearing and standing for the truth.”

2) Tell nothing but the truth.

One of the most common temptations in contemporary discourse, both secular and Christian, is the temptation to exaggerate by making blanket statements about groups of people.  A recent comment on the Internet suggested that not many “Christians” care for the homeless.  The following statement appeared in a prominent international newspaper, “Opposition to gay marriage from evangelical Christians is so rooted in homophobia as to be invalid.”  Christians, especially evangelical Christians, are understandably and justifiably upset by such comments.

So what do we do?  Well, often, we “give as well as we get!”  And that simply is not right.

Here was the comment of a “Christian” in response to confrontations which occurred at the 2012 Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan:  “I abhor violence, but the Muslims seem to thrive on it; they may be laid to waste if they do not allow free speech, in my opinion. This is not a good situation at all. Those Christians have rights too.”    And another example:  “[A well-known evangelical Christian leader]. . . once again spoke out against American Muslims, singling out the construction of mosques and the purported threat of creeping Sharia law. [He] likened critics of Muslims to opponents of Nazis and rejected claims that his opposition to rights for Muslims is bigotry, asking, ‘I wonder what were people who opposed the Nazis, were they bigots?’”  Muslims are understandably and justifiably upset by such comments.

The principle here is really quite simple – in our standing for the truth, we must always avoid making blanket statements about groups of people. Such statements nearly always contain exaggerations which distort the truth we are trying to tell. Address the specific actions of specific people, but be sure to treat groups of “others” exactly as we who are members of the group called “Christians” want to be treated. Of course, such a procedure may require more subtlety than the 140 characters of a tweet allow but “telling nothing but the truth” demands that subtlety.  And this means that it probably would be the most Biblical course of action NEVER to "re-tweet" or to "share" anything which is critical of someone or some group.  Find another way of "speaking the truth," a way which allows for telling nothing but the truth and which allows for telling the whole truth.

3) Tell the whole truth.

In some ways, this may be the hardest of all because it requires us to spend time actually making sure that the anti-Obama or anti-Romney e-mail that we received and were asked to forward to others provides the full story, whether that is the full story of Governor Romney’s taxes or the full story of President Obama’s job history (the two examples mentioned in the editorial with which I began this blog).

It is SOOO easy just to forward that e-mail or to share that Facebook posting. But if the Westminster Divines were right about what the Ninth Commandment requires of us (and I think they were), then the easy way is definitely the wrong way. Read again that extraordinary list of some of the actions which the Westminster Larger Catechism says are prohibited by the Ninth Commandment:

Speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice; . . . misconstructing intentions, words, and actions aggravating smaller faults; . . . unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; . . . neglecting such things as are of good report . . .

All of this takes effort and time. But if the result of that effort is honor and praise to the Lord, then it is effort and time well-spent.

Which leads to my fourth and final point.

4) Trust in the Lord with all your heart and not in your own understanding.

But if I don’t tell all those suspected bad things about candidate x, he might get elected (or re-elected) and that would be terrible! Our country might go right down the tubes.

Well, yes, that might happen.

But that is not the worst thing that could happen. Even worse than the total disappearance of my country would be any diminution of the honor given to the Lord when His word is fully obeyed.

My understanding might suggest to me that, if I don’t get others to vote the way I think they should, the cause of the Kingdom will be lost. But – praise the Lord! – the cause of the Kingdom does not ultimately rest in my hands. My Lord asks me to act according to His word and to leave the ultimate results to Him. That “leaving” is precisely where “trust in the Lord” happens.

Yes, speak the truth, speak it in love (another blog for what that means), but avoid broad blanket statements about other groups of His creatures and be sure that, when you do speak, you tell the WHOLE story and avoid the temptation to converse in tweets or sound bites.

As Jesus Himself suggested in the prayer He gave His disciples, when His will is done in the way we speak, His Kingdom comes . . . right then and right there.

Sam Logan is Special Counsel to the President and Professor of Church History at Biblical. He is an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and he is President Emeritus at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. In addition to his work at Biblical, he serves as International Director of the World Reformed Fellowship ( http://www.wrfnet.org ). He is married to Susan and they have two sons and two grandsons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/samuel-logan


Written by Todd Mangum Monday, 20 August 2012 00:00

My dog, “Happy,” was a hound dog from Virginia. Had he not been welcomed into our home ten years ago, he would have likely spent most of his life in a twenty by twenty pen with a half dozen of his brothers and sisters, released occasionally to chase rabbits and squirrels for a hunt. We liked to think of ourselves as “rescuing” him from such a fate, but, as my wife observed wryly — and accurately: that actually would not have been a bad life . . . for a dog.

And Happy was definitely all dog. He was not a great house pet, truthfully. He shed all over the place. We have a fenced in back yard from which he loved to chase the crows and squirrels, but it wasn’t nearly the wide stretch of land he clearly was designed to romp and run in. He was part Harrier Hound, so when he was poised to launch and lunge off our porch at the nuisance animals he sought to guard us from, he’d go into that “pointer position” that was entertaining to watch.

He sought to protect us — which was more of a hassle really than a help. Heaven forbid someone should knock on our door or ring our doorbell. He treated the Domino’s pizza man like a suspected serial killer. We live next door to the most saintly Mennonite dentist who’s now in his 80s; and that poor, patient, kindly man couldn’t walk out of his back door to his car without Happy rushing the fence and barking like he was some terrorist threat.  “Stupid dog” was probably our most common comment to and about Happy for 10 years.

But we got used to him and actually came to love him — stupid as that is, too. He was the one living being in our house who was always overwhelmingly glad to see me when I got home and could hardly contain himself to greet me. We got used to the thump, thump, thump sound of his tail on the floor whenever we entered a room not knowing he was even there. And the way he loved his “walkies” — like having our own personal trainer; he’d bark us off the couch if we dared sit too long in front of the television.

About two weeks ago, we noticed he seemed to be having trouble walking, favoring one of his back legs. Within a day or two, it was both back legs that seemed to wobble when he tried to walk; and then a front leg, too.  We spent about a thousand dollars — yeah, that still hurts! — on tests and medicines before we realized that the infections he had were mortal; he was not going to be able to fight them off.  After three days of intense fever, we had the vet “help him” go to sleep for good.

And then we grieved for him.  Just a little hole in the heart — but a hole.  Yeah, I’m a bit embarrassed that I could be moved to grief, however mild, over a stupid dog. But there it is.

Now, in the last year, four of my colleagues at Biblical have lost their mothers. Our stupid dog dying is nothing compared to that. In fact, remembering the grief some of my colleagues are going through, I hesitated to even write about something so trivial in comparison as the death of my dog.

But, Death is an enemy — and part of what the death of my dog has raised to my own consciousness is how vicious is this enemy. It takes no account of the young or the old, the innocent or the guilty. Even a harmless, clueless, tail-wagging, tongue-hanging-out family pet is put in its crosshairs — just pure meanness.

Biblically, I’ve noticed passages like the end Joel 1 of late; when Joel prophesies regarding how miserable will be the coming famine, he notes the barns being torn down and the grain drying up, and says: “How the animals groan! The herds of cattle wander aimlessly because there is no pasture for them; even the flocks of sheep suffer. . . . Even the beasts of the field pant for Thee, Lord, for the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness” (Joel 1:17-20).  The suffering extending even to the animals indicates how devastating will be the degree of famine and misery; but there’s also something “particularly touching” about innocent animals being helplessly affected by a judgment foist upon them that they had nothing to do with inciting.

In this vein is the end of Jonah. Jonah wants to see the Divine nukes dropped on the hostile city of Nineveh. God rebukes him for his unforgiving lack of compassion and mercilessness, with these words, which incredibly close the whole book:  “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 people who do not know their right hand from their left . . . as well as many animals?”

Catch that?  God looks down from heaven and one of the things He notices and thinks about in considering whether or not to pour down His wrath on a place is, “Well . . . the poor innocent animals don’t deserve the suffering that would result from that. . . .  I don’t think I’ll do it.” . . .

Through the death of my dog, I’m reminded of such scriptural sentiments revealed about the character of the God I serve. And that Death is a bastard of an enemy, a cruel bully that picks on the innocent, the fragile and the helpless.  And one day Jesus is going to kick its butt.  

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum.


Written by Phil Monroe Friday, 17 August 2012 00:00

A few weeks ago, I participated in a mini conference on the topic of preventing and responding to abuse in the church. A goodly number of our students were in attendance and are continuing to study this issue in a summer course that extends into an on-line context. One of their recent assignments was to list what they thought were the top five prevention actions/policies church leaders should enact. While the order of the prevention actions varied, most students gave some variation of these 5 important steps.

1.  Background checks for all paid staff and volunteers working with children

As nearly every student noted, background checks only catch those already with abuse backgrounds. However, it does send a message that churches aren’t going to give predators a blank check. With background checks, we may uncover “old” criminal behavior. Leaders will need to decide whether certain crimes of violence against others disqualify for life. Without giving a one-size-fits-all answer, every church should at least (a) call the arresting authority on vague crimes to ensure the crime confessed to is the real crime (and not just a plea deal), and (b) not whitewash crimes committed “before Christ.” Consider not just the “rights” of the would-be leader but also the experience those they serve.

2.  Limitations and regulations on child-adult leader contact

It is much harder to abuse children when leaders aren’t allowed to have private contact with children. Read the accounts of those who were abused by Catholic priests and you will see parents who thought it was safe to let their children go camping, on trips, or hang out with priests. While the vast majority of priests did not abuse this privilege, those who did had no oversight. Requiring two or more non-related leaders for every child contact provides protection for the most vulnerable. Does a child need a ride home? Find a way to have more than one adult in the car. The matter of on-line private contact also ought to be explored. Youth leaders should CC parents or use public areas of Facebook when communicating with children. Texting is commonplace, but every church leader should know that their communications with children will be reviewed from time to time.

3.  Speak up about the problem of abuse and the reasons for protection

If you want your church community to recognize the problem of abuse and the reason why the church must work to protect the most vulnerable, then abuse better be a frequent subject of discussion from the pulpit to the weekly small group meeting. Talk about the biblical and legal reasons for child protection. In addition, the church family needs to know how predators tend to function and how emotional and spiritual abuse has many faces. Check out this link for my 2 reasonswhy every church needs a response policy.  

4.  Have a response plan; practice it

I’ve read statistics that say some 40% of churches do not have child abuse protection policies. It is my experience that many more fail to have abuse response policies. Most wait to devise a plan after an accusation has been made. Waiting until a community receives an allegation of abuse to set a response plan ensures that something will be missed. Reactive responses almost always lead to blindness to some important concern. Who will handle the complaint? Who will ensure authorities are called in the case of abuse of minors or the elderly? What ministry to victims, offenders, family and community will be considered? While these questions are fairly easy to resolve, questions about ambiguous complaints against leaders can get muddy fast. Without a plan and without training (more than an annual, uninspired abuse prevention session), it is easy to develop a reason to allow special exceptions for someone we really respect, and thereby render our plans useless.

And if you have a plan?  Practice it. An unpracticed plan is not likely to succeed.

5.  Consult with experts outside the church

Common grace gifts all people with bits and pieces of wisdom. Some of this wisdom comes in the form of special knowledge and skills in the care for victims and perpetrators of abuse. It is important for every church to consider outsiders who may be well-suited to offer advice and guidance as the church builds care plans for the entire community. These outside experts may be able to train church leaders regarding reporting policies, social service options, etc. Let us not be so proud that we cannot learn from others.

The Biggest Barrier to Implementation?

In another assignment, students are asked to consider barriers that keep churches from implementing these policies. As expected, they have uncovered many reasons why we fail to respond well to abuse. The biggest barrier? Inaction—having knowledge but failing to act on what we know. Of course, there are many reasons why we fail to act and these need to be explored in greater detail.

It is heartwarming to hear from several students how they have decided to review their own church policies and offer gentle suggestions for improvement. If you are wondering what you can do, offer to review your own church policies for child protection and abuse response.

Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychology and Director of the MA in Counseling program at Biblical Seminary. He maintains a private practice with Diane Langberg & Associates. You can follow his personal and professional musings at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.comor read more about it at http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/phillip-monroe.


Written by Larry Anderson Tuesday, 14 August 2012 00:00

Editorial note from Sam Logan:

On Monday, August 13, the President of Biblical Seminary, David Dunbar, sent the message immediately below to the Biblical community. Below Dave's message is a blog written by Biblical Faculty member, Dr. Larry Anderson. Larry's blog was scheduled to appear on August 24. In light of the message from Dave Dunbar, I moved up the publication of Larry's blog to August 14.

David Dunbar's message to the Biblical Seminary community on August 13, 2012:


I feel the shortness of life today. Dave Lamb’s mother passed away about ten days ago. Darryl Lang’s mother is nearing the end of her days. My mother passed away on Friday evening. She seems to have slept her way peacefully into the presence of the Lord, for which we are very grateful. My daughter-in-law is staying with us just now and helping to care for her own father who is in the last stages of a massive onslaught of aggressive cancer . . . he will likely pass away in the next few days.

Our culture does much to disguise the reality of death, but the fact is that our lives here are fleeting and fragile. Resurrection is the good end of the story however. Let us live in hope of a brighter tomorrow!

I would value your prayers for our family, especially my dad. I am sure that Dave and Darryl would appreciate the same.




Larry Anderson's Blog:

I can't pretend death don't hurt anymore!

As I write this blog, I'm sitting here in my black home-going suit. I call it that because it has been donned at more of these services than any other occasions. I have one more obituary to add to my collection, and once again I am filled with emotion. I realize I can't pretend death don't hurt anymore!

As a pastor, I'm aware that I attend these more often than most, and many times I have no deep relationship with the deceased. It's the families that I am seeking to support. Nevertheless, I am still filled up reminiscing about all of the people I have personally lost while identifying with all the pain others are currently going through. I can't pretend death don't hurt anymore!

My calling is to remind people that we in Christ do not mourn as those who do not have hope. I'm called to explain that this is a celebration of life, and even better, life everlasting. I'm called to share with this grieving family how their loved one is even in a better place than all of us are right now. But I can't pretend death don't hurt anymore!

I do believe the Bible, and I do understand to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord; but I also know the pain of losing someone you love so dearly can take your breath away. I know how the littlest memory on a bright sunny day can bring you to a point of gut-wrenching grief. I know how a song, or a movie, or some past shared moment can have your eyes welling up with tears even with a smile on your face. You see, I just can't pretend death don't hurt anymore!

So I'm not going to tell anyone they shouldn't be sad or they need to stop crying. I'm not going to say "Time heals all wounds", or "Try not to think about it." I'm going to be honest and say "Death hurts, but it won't hurt always." Death does not get the final word. The real joy for those left behind is the reminder that one day we'll attend the biggest family reunion we've ever imagined, and the Host of Hosts will be Jesus Himself. Physical death awaits us all, but knowing the God of Comfort and having a relationship with the Lord sure makes it a lot easier to accept.

Larry L. Anderson Jr. is Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and the Director of the Urban Programs at Biblical. He is also the pastor of Great Commission Church, previously located in the suburb of Roslyn, PA, but now situated in the West Oak Lane community of Philadelphia to provide a holistic ministry to an urban setting.


Written by Todd Mangum Friday, 10 August 2012 00:00

It’s true. This week I turned 50 years old. And that’s all I’m going to say about that — it still sounds old to me.  I’m taking comfort in the notion that that means I must still be young at heart. 

A wise man knows he will not live forever, Ecclesiastes and all that.  Still, it’s hitting me harder than I thought it might, and has prompted some reflections.  Don’t get me wrong; I really am looking forward to the life to come. I’m just not finished preparing for it yet — and seeing the gas gauge down to a quarter tank is . . . well, disconcerting.

Anyway, here are major lessons I’ve learned from five decades of living so far — enjoy:

Ages 1-10: I learned that my parents loved me, were always there for me, and could be trusted to protect me when bad things happen. In the following four decades, one learns that none of these are as failsafe as you thought when you were three.  Even still, that feeling of love and protection is something every child should be allowed to enjoy. It’s something you and I can give to our kids; and the fact that not every child has these basic senses of love and protection is one of the injustices of this life that Christ calls us to work toward rectifying.

Ages 11-20: I learned that God is always there, is always watching, and is always with me. That learned and notwithstanding, my friends — the kind of friends I had and the kinds of interests we shared and pursued — were often a greater influence on what I might actually think, say, or do at any given moment. When I came to recognize that, it was both startling and sobering. Note to self: be mindful of the friends you hold dear and be careful about the company you keep. 

Ages 21-30: I learned that life with God can be fun; His blessings are rich — wife and kids included. I also learned that working hard to achieve goals is a real joy, but that sometimes all the hard work in the world results still in disappointment.  Life is a journey of victories and losses, successes and failures, joys and sorrows.  Each of us enjoys or endures both in different measures, sometimes because of choices we make, but often by choices others make that affect us or even by what just seems like the luck of the draw. In the end, the character of a person is demonstrated by one’s response to both success and failure — not by how many may be listed in each category.

Ages 31-40:  This was when I learned that life has a finite timeline, and that you can do some things you’ve always wanted to do — but you can’t do everything. Choosing between good options means not doing some good things, and missing out on things you wish you didn’t have to miss out on.  Looking back, some of the times I remember and cherish most are the whiffle ball games in the back yard with my toddler and pre-school boys, the backyard baby pool, Christmases and birthday parties.  And, I’m so, so glad I coached my son’s baseball team that year even though I was still working on my doctoral dissertation. I can put my book, The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and the “Coach Todd” baseball trophy on the same shelf.  I didn’t know it at the time, but that cheap trophy that every kid on the team got that year — including the third string right-fielder who never did quite learn to throw and ducked at every pitch thrown him at the plate — may actually represent the more significant impact of my life’s work.  (You should still buy my book though: http://www.amazon.com/Dispensational-Covenantal-Studies-Evangelical-History-Thought/dp/1842273655/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid= 1343394285&sr=8-1&keywords=mangum%2C+dispensational).

Ages 41-50: Over these last ten years I’ve learned that faithful life for God and with God is life filled with great joys and also great pain — that God can be trusted, but no one is spared the anguish and agony of loss and disappointment. I have also learned — well, am learning — that the blessings are probably greater than the disappointments, but, if you’re not careful, you can overlook them and be weighed down by the struggles. My wife — already a great blessing from the Lord right there; Prov. 19:14 is serious! — took me out for brunch on my birthday.  She knew I was feeling a bit pensive about all this, so she began listing major blessings that even now we are enjoying from the Lord’s hand — in career, in ministry fruit, in the Lord’s provisions financially and in physical health, ending with the listing of the blessing of my family. Parents who love the Lord and love us; three sons and a daughter in law who all know and love the Lord and love me. “And, don’t forget,” she ended, “a beautiful wife who knows you well and still loves you dearly.” J   Yep. True dat.

Academics like me — and you’re probably one, too, if you’re reading this blog — live in the world of critical thinking and analysis. We thrive on picking apart glib analysis and populist premises.  But truth is: there’s a lot of truth in all the corny sayings and hackneyed clichés about love and life, family and friends, God and Jesus that Mommy and Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa, the pastor and the Sunday School teacher, and the other good people in our life have tried to tell us.   Take it from one who’s now lived half a century: corny truths are still true, and they’re some of the most important. You can bet your life on that.    

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum.


Written by Sam Logan Tuesday, 07 August 2012 00:00

By now, we have all seen this picture hundreds of times:

I first saw the picture when a very good and respected friend posted it with approval on his Facebook page. 

I dissented (and I still do dissent) from his approval of the picture but many of his other friends celebrated  both the sentiment expressed by the picture and the approval expressed by the one who posted it. 

What should those of us who want to be faithful and missional Christians say in such a situation?

Here are some suggestions (and I would love to get both corrections and further suggestions from the readers of this blog) –

1) The implication that Christians are not as active in ministry (to the poor, to the homeless, to the sexually trafficked, to the victims of natural disasters, etc., etc.) as they are in supporting statements opposing gay marriage should be graciously but firmly rejected.  Specific examples of active (and often costly) Christian compassion may be provided . . . so long as they are not presented in a triumphalistic manner.    We must never be trumpeting our good works in order to receive the approval of men.  On the other hand, simple truth-telling really is a virtue.

2)  The tendency that we all have to make blanket statements about groups with whom we disagree (or think we disagree) must be vigorously and constantly be resisted.  Any implication that one would never see “that many” Christians at a food bank or a homeless shelter, especially when the implication is made through a global medium like Facebook, is a slander against the millions of Christians in other parts of the world who never even heard of Chick Fil A.  I have personally and physically witnessed Christians lining up in places like Soweto and Seoul to help others who were in need and I know from other direct experience that this sort of behavior is “normal” for many Christians, whether the issue is an Indonesian tsunami or a Japanese nuclear disaster or a Palestinian family’s poverty. 

3) Unfortunately, however, we evangelical Christians do not always embody this kind of “missional resistance” to making blanket stereotypical statements.  Those of us who bear the name of the One Who claimed to be (and is) “the Way, THE TRUTH, and the Life” must set the standard of accuracy in the way we talk.  Have we ever made a statement about “Muslims?”  If so, have we been careful to make such statements only if we have demonstrably clear evidence that what we are saying really is true of ALL Muslims?  “Muslims worship Allah” is an appropriate statement for evangelical Christians to make.  “Muslims are terrorists” is not an appropriate statement for evangelical Christians to make.

4)  To move to the issue which precipitated the Chick Fil A controversy, do we ever talk about “gays”?  Do we ever talk about those who support gay marriage?  If we do, are we careful to be certain that our statements embody “missional resistance” to stereotyping?

5) I have used the word “missional” in the previous two paragraphs.  Why? Because in everything we say and in everything we do, we are responsible to God to embody, to the best of our Spirit-filled ability, what Christopher Wight has called “The Mission of God” and “The Mission of God’s People.”   God’s mission and ours is not simply to try to show that others that they are wrong when we think they are, though, of course, standing for the truth is surely an integral part of that mission.  In addition to (not in place of, but in addition to) speaking the truth, the mission of God involves Incarnation and the mission of God’s people involves incarnation.  We are to BE what we SAY about grace.  When others make blanket stereotypical statements about us, they are repeating the linguistic actions of those who verbally assaulted Jesus.  When we resist responding in kind, we are repeating His words and His ultimate redemptive deed – “Father, forgive them.”

6) Of all the characters in Scripture, the one whose sin most often crops up in my own life is Jonah:  “Lord, those Ninevites are horrible sinners and I want them to get every ounce of judgment they deserve.”  “Ah, but Jonah, you love that plant which you did not create . . . should I not love and spare the city of Nineveh?”  Even if those who support gay marriage are wrong (and I believe they are), isn’t the mission of God and the mission of God’s people to do that which most clearly embodies the loving and the sparing which God accomplished in Jesus? 

I have rarely eaten at Chick Fil A and, in the future, I expect that I will eat there no more (and no less) than before.  This is not because I do not care about the issues raised by Dan Cathay’s comments.  It is because neither support for nor repudiation of those comments will, in my judgment, facilitate the accomplishment of “the mission of God” or “the mission of God’s people."

But where will YOU be eating your fast-food lunches?  And why?

Sam Logan is Special Counsel to the President and Professor of Church History at Biblical.  He is an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and he is President Emeritus at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.  In addition to his work at Biblical, he serves as International Director of the World Reformed Fellowship ( http://www.wrfnet.org).  He is married to Susan and they have two sons and two grandsons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/samuel-logan


Written by Kyuboem Lee Friday, 03 August 2012 00:00

There is an obvious interest in the topic of the bi-vocational pastorate--quite a few readers have contributed their comments on the previous postI very much appreciate them; thank you. These responses have jogged more lines of thought that I believe could be helpful for us to explore further.

As I've stated in the previous post, we will probably see a rise of bi-vocational pastors because of the economic pressures and the changes afoot in our world. Going from a full-time pastorate to a bi-vocational model can be a difficult transition, fraught with many challenges for the whole congregation. But that means it can be a wonderful time of growth, too. One commenter asked a question that is surely on many people's minds: If the pastor transitions from full-time to bi-vocational, won't the ministry suffer, simply because the pastor has less time for the ministry?

>As a response, let's consider some vital questions:

One: Is the pastor being compensated enough?

That has to be the first consideration by the congregation. According to this postmany pastors are not.

A recent study conducted byThe National Association of Church Business Administration points out that the average American pastor with a congregation of 300 people earns a salary of less than $28,000 and that one out of five pastors has to moonlight for supplemental income. The study also indicated that only 5 percent of American pastors earn more than $50,000 a year, and 14 percent earn less than $25,000.

Clearly, something needs to give. If congregations are not able to support an adequate wage for the pastors and their families, they need to support the pastors in other ways--one way is to allow them to go bi-vocational. It could be that a pastor is overly in love with money and possessions, and is being overly demanding of a higher income. They will need to be gently challenged, accordingly. However, more often than not, pastors are people who have made tremendous personal sacrifices for the sake of answering the call, and, if so, congregations will need to recognize their service and let them support their families adequately. It will involve a change for the whole congregation, as we will see, so it won’t be an easy transition. But it will be a necessary one.

Two: Can the church leadership as a whole embrace a team approach to the ministry?

If the full-time pastor transitions to a bi-vocational role, pastoral responsibilities will need to be shared. Leaders will need to be developed, and they will need to assume different roles. We are thinking more of a team of shepherds, instead of a CEO and board model.

There is a good biblical precedent for this approach. In Acts 6, when a vital ministry was in need of good leadership, the apostles installed the first group of deacons so they might oversee the distribution of food to widows. This freed the apostles up to devote themselves to the ministry of word and prayer.

Pastors, elders, and deacons need to consider how they could work better as a team of leaders. Some in the church, other than pastors, are gifted in pastoral counseling, but haven’t assumed a role that fits their gifting. Same with mercy ministry, envisioning, visitations, etc. Surely there are leaders in the church better gifted to lead a building program than the pastor? They will need to assume leadership roles, and others will need to follow their lead. This will free up the pastors to focus on the ministry of word and prayer.

Preaching is also a work that can be shared among the church leadership. In my church, there is a group of elders and deacons with whom I share the preaching work. I work with them to prepare the messages, and they grow in their abilities through experience. Training is built into this model.

That leads us to the next question.

Three: How will the church train and raise up leaders for the new paradigm?

The elders and deacons will need training for church leadership, much more than what may currently be expected of them. This doesn’t mean that they will need an M.Div. But they will need a theological education. The pastor, who usually does hold an M.Div., may now need to fulfill the role of trainer and coach. The pastor's main role would now shift to raising up other shepherds within the body of Christ. As the one who holds the most advanced degree in theological education in the congregation (usually), the pastor can lead an in-house theological training program.

There can be a lot of exciting creativity that can come into play when building such a training model. Other local pastors can be called on to share the teaching, and build a local team of trainers. Every pastor will have their own unique gifts to bring to the training process. An exciting by-product could be a shared sense of mission among these churches, directed to the local community.

This may mean, however, that the pastor gives up being the primary face of the church. The preaching and other ministry roles will need to be shared among the growing group of shepherds, and this group will collectively assume the role of being the face of the church. This can be hard to pull off if the expectation has been that the pastor is the one everyone comes to see and hear preach on a Sunday. There will need to be a shift in the church’s vision.

Another implication is a corrective to the current model of church leadership development. The typical route to the pastorate has been this: An individual experiences an inner sense of calling. The individual enrolls in a theological seminary. Upon graduation, a church that is in need of filling a pulpit calls the graduate into ministry. Such an approach has left too much to the individual’s initiative and private devices. Where is the church body in the process? A much healthier approach would be to for the church to observe the individual's character, faithfulness, and abilities, as they serve as a lay minister in the context of the church. The candidate would receive training by the pastor and through experience. By the time ordination comes around, the whole church should be able to enthusiastically affirm God’s calling on the individual. There is a much greater emphasis on the outer sense of calling. Then the church would not be looking solely at a person’s GPA; the church would have the candidate’s whole life to base its judgment.

Moving away from the professionalization of ministry to the priesthood of all believers in this way can be a very healthy process of maturation for the whole church. Every believer will be called on to do the work of ministry and to exercise faith for the life of the church. There will be a greater participation and a more robust discipleship.

As you have more thoughts, please share. The give-and-take is good for developing these ideas.

Dr. Kyuboem Lee serves as a lecturer of Urban Mission at Biblical Seminary. He is the founding pastor of Germantown Hope Community Church in Philadelphia, and the General Editor for the Journal of Urban Mission.http://jofum.com


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