Sunday School and Christian Discipleship

Dr. Russell Moore has a thoughtful post entitled “The Cosmic Importance of Sunday School.” I encourage you to check it out. While there is certainly more to be said about the role of parents in discipling their own children, it is also true that the church has been called alongside parents, not only to equip them for this task, but also to be about the vital work of shaping children into the image of Christ as well. One of the “forgotten” means of discipling children is through traditional Sunday School church programs. Dr. Moore recognizes that even when Sunday School is done poorly by those who are, perhaps, ill prepared for the task, through maybe no fault of their own, may still yield lasting fruit in the lives of the students. Just think about what effect biblical instruction done by trained teachers over the life of a student year in and year out, Sunday after Sunday (or whatever day you choose) could mean, not only for the individual receiving instruction, but for the health of the church, and the good of one’s neighbor. The task of training and preparing teachers to effectively reach their students with the truths of God’s Word is eternally important, and should be a priority in every local church, whether it is done on a Sunday morning or Tuesday night Bible study.

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Christmas Around the Internet

This past week I’ve had the chance to view several Christmas themed posts. Some of the more interesting ones are Ryan Reeves’ short video on the history of giving gifts at Christmas. I generally chalked up gift giving as a way tangible way to remember God’s gift of giving his Son to the world, but Reeves has much more to say about this Christmas tradition. Continue reading

Media (and Others) Behaving Badly with Stats

Several years ago there was an article in Books and Culture by Christian Smith on “Evangelicals Behaving Badly with Stats.” Well, it seems that Evangelicals aren’t the only ones to do naughty things with stats. It’s been getting around that Evangelicals are to blame for President-elect Trump’s unexpected victory. (See here, here and here.) But is that really the case. Joe Carter has a helpful post at The Gospel Coalition breaking down the 80% number that is being bandied about. I encourage you to read his post. Continue reading

Post-Election Thoughts

Well it’s over, at least the bit about selecting the next leader of the free world. Regardless of the outcome I’ve wondered how free that world would truly be for all people regardless of age (everyone from the womb to the tomb), ethnicity, education, gender, you name it. I can’t say I’m all that surprised at the outcome. Frankly, I wouldn’t have been surprised had Secretary Clinton won the day. The reason for this is simple: people often receive the leaders they deserve. In his pre-election night editorial, Michael Brendan Dougherty stated,

I look at the headlines, our candidates, our political parties, our civic life, and mostly what occurs to me is that God has given us over to ourselves in this election, and he lets us make fools of ourselves with it.

The idea is not a new one, nor is it without biblical precedent. Just look at the nation of ancient Israel. During the period of the judges, the nation as a whole continued to progressively get worse and worse. There didn’t appear to be any sin the people hadn’t considered giving themselves over to. And the judges the Lord graciously used to deliver his wayward people, likewise got progressively worse. In the book of Judges six judges in particular are given extended treatment. The earliest of these judges were, from all accounts, faithful to the Lord during their time as judge (Othniel, Ehud, and Deborah). However, the moral compass of the last three judges (Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson) in the end is so screwed up one can’t tell north from south or east from west. And if you don’t recall how bad things had actually become in Israel, I encourage you to go back and read Judges 17–21.

During this election cycle I’ve also been reminded that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is beholden to no one but King Jesus. Our allegiance is not to a particular political party. Nor should we concern ourselves with so aligning with a particular party, ideology, or candidate that our hopes for a better future are bound up with it or them. The victory for a particular candidate is not how the church becomes victorious. It never has been. For the church, the only hope we have in this world and the next for lasting victory is found in a Savior who was victorious only through enduring the cross. And the same is the case for those who follow Jesus. Victory, the kind the Bible speaks of, is something that comes through suffering. The victory Jesus has won is one in which the church must continue to testify to and live in light of if it too is to experience the victory that Jesus has secured. As the last book of the Bible states, “They [the church] has triumphed over him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Rev 12:11).

Living in a democratic republic affords its citizens the opportunity to vote for its leaders. I’m thankful for this privilege and believe it is something worth fighting for. That being said, as a member of the body of Christ, the citizenship I am most thankful for, the one that will last into eternity, is my citizenship in God’s kingdom. Russell Moore’s post-election day post sums up my thoughts on this:

Our [the church’s] rallying cry is not “Hail to the Chief” but “Jesus is Lord.” Perhaps this electoral shakeup means that President Trump will lead America to be great again. I hope so. But regardless, whatever happens to America, we must seek the Kingdom first again.

While I cannot be sure that in this nation’s history it has every been truly great for all of its citizens, I generally affirm Dr. Moore’s thoughts. The church in the States needs to focus its attention on seeking God’s kingdom. If the energy, time, and money used by Christians in this and previous election cycles were devoted to the things of the Kingdom, they may have begun to see real and lasting change in their local communities and around the world. Things may not have been any different, but who knows what the Lord might have done had his people (the church) dedicated themselves to pursuing his agenda, which is good for all people, rather than the agenda of a politician, which is good for their voting bloc (rarely) and good for them (always).

Tithing and the Christian

Over the years I’ve heard very little preaching and teaching on a biblical view of money, possessions, and finances. I don’t know why this is the case. It’s not as if there is a shortage of preaching/teaching material out there on the subject. When you turn to the Gospels Jesus had plenty to say about money and possessions. Same thing goes for the apostle Paul. The Old Testament isn’t silent on the matter either. But for some reason, pastors tend to stay away from teaching about money. When they do talk about it, it is usually right before the church is about to receive an offering. Most, although not all, typically refers to receiving tithes and offering. It’s the tithes part that I think is meant to really get the congregation’s attention. The not so subtle message is: If you are a Christian, and a member of this local church, then it is your sacred duty to give your tithe to support gospel ministry. Continue reading

Discipleship Lessons from the Old Testament

Were there any examples of the kind of relationship that might be identified with NT discipleship in the OT?[i] According to Rengstorf the answer must certainly be no. He notes that the relationship between Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, the prophets and their attendants, and Jeremiah and Baruch were not teacher-disciple relationships as is sometimes thought. Rather, Joshua, Elisha, Baruch, and others who followed the prophets were “servants” of those with whom they had a relationship.[ii] In the end, Rengstorf reasons that the teacher-disciple relationship was absent in the OT because there was only one who was to be revered and whose word was to be followed, the Lord himself. Continue reading

Church Leaders, Please Get Training!

As I was viewing Facebook recently I noticed that someone commented on an article at Charisma Magazine’s webpage. The title of the article immediately caught my attention, “One Little Word Dispels the Notion that Paul Silenced Women.” Having done some study on complementarian and egalitarian interpretations of key New Testament texts on the role of men and woman in the home and in the local church, I was interested to see what the author of the article, Eddie Hyatt, had to contribute to the discussion.[1] Continue reading