Tullian Tchividjian and the Contemporary Grace Movement

Originally posted on Green Baggins:

Tullian Tchividjian has had to step down as senior minister of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church as a result of an affair that he had in reaction to an affair that his wife Kim had. This is tragic on a number of levels. This is a very high profile PCA church. D. James Kennedy was the founding pastor of the church, and Billy Graham’s grandson Tullian also brought limelight to the church. But it is always Satan’s delight to get ministers to fall in just such a manner. He can bring the church into disrepute. He can provide fodder for unbelievers to laugh at the church and say, “You aren’t any different from us. Why should we join you?” He can shake the faith of many saints in that church as well as other churches.

This affair, I believe, is not unconnected with his theology of sanctification. It would be overly…

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Dear Unlearned, Un- and Under-Educated Pastors: Please Take Scripture Seriously- And STUDY

Originally posted on Zwinglius Redivivus:

I realize, know, and understand that not everyone has the opportunity to attend college and graduate school in order to learn in great depth and detail what Scripture teaches, theology informs, and church history illustrates.  Not everyone can learn Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.  I also realize that having those opportunities is a real blessing and privilege.

But that doesn’t excuse you, dear Parson, if you lack those opportunities, from doing your dead level best to become better informed in your calling’s text (the Bible) than any physician in his anatomy text or lawyer in her law books.  You OWE it to your congregation, your sheep, your flock, to feed them bread and not stones or scorpions.

Glorying in ignorance may help you to feel better about your laziness and incompetence, but believe me, the Bible never exalts stupidity nor does it congratulate the fool.  It may help you to imagine…

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Today With Zwingli: The Break With Erasmus

Originally posted on Zwinglius Redivivus:

Zwingli’s biographer notes

“… the break with Erasmus was accompanied with the loss of the friendship of Glareanus, who was the shadow of Erasmus and shared his religious views. This fact comes out in the letter Zwingli, on May 28, 1525, wrote to Vadianus:

“When Erasmus of Rotterdam received my commentary [“On the true and false religion”] he exclaimed, as a friend of his reports: ‘

My good Zwingli, what do you write that I have not first written?’

I tell you this that you may see how far self-esteem can carry us. Would that Erasmus had treated my arguments with his pen! The world would then have been persuaded, so that I should not labour under such a burden of enmity. I always preferred to stay in the background; but the Lord did not wish it, and His will be done.

Would that the name of Erasmus had been…

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Church (Membership) Covenants, Power Structures, and Shepherding the Flock of God

The church where I serve has a  church covenant. It is available on our website and along with it is a document with my own commentary on the church covenant, what the sections mean and how we live it out in the life of the body.

We use the covenant originally appended to the New Hampshire Baptist Confession. It was written in 1803 and was first published in 1833. This covenant focuses on church life and discipleship and calls on us to voluntarily join together for the cause of Christ. It begins with caring for one another and continues through worship, family religion, personal piety and discipleship. It has room for the exercise of one’s liberty of conscience and though it is quite clearly voluntary, it serves as a good reminder of our responsibilities as members of Christ’s church, specifically, the responsibilities to our particular local body. We have had much success in using this covenant (and my own teaching on the covenant) to lead people into spiritual growth and service. Other churches have also used my teaching on the church covenant to instruct their churches in church life and discipleship.

Lately, however, a shift has ocurred. There is much talk about membership covenants in the last few years after several instances where such covenants were used in what appeared to be an attempt to control members or to protect or stifle criticism of church leadership. Such “membership covenants” (as they are sometimes called) have become  standard in neo-Reformed circles. But these membership covenants are much different than the ones that have historically been used. Historically they were not as detailed as one finds today and they focused more on discipleship and congregational life rather than policy and procedure. For example, they didn’t contain details for how marriage difficulties were handled. And beyond simply stating that someone who leaves the church should unite with another church, there wasn’t anything about having to get permission from the elders to leave and similar items.

Here’s a brief comparison-contrast to illustrate how bureaucratic these covenants have become. Our church covenant is less than one page and we do not require a signature nor attendance at classes where we explain it, though we do give it to every person who inquires after our church. The Village Church’s membership covenant (which is being discussed due to the Jordan Root fiasco), however, is four pages long (pdf), not including the title page. It is double-columned, footnoted, and, if I understand properly, requires a signature from the prospective member. I know for a fact one must attend classes in which the membership covenant is explained in detail.

These membership covenant are now being used more and more to bind members in ways that I don’t think the Scriptures necessarily permit. For example, there are churches who have placed members under discipline for attempting to quietly leave when disagreeing with leadership. This seems like the preferable resolution for both parties so it’s hard to see it as anything other than an attempt to control the membership and I don’t think shepherding and controlling are the same thing.

Somewhere along the way, church covenants became membership contracts and now some church leaders are acting more like lawyers and judges in enforcing these contracts than elders and shepherds caring for God’s flock.

I’d like to say that this is something inherent to the neo-Reformed movement because then it would be easy to dismiss as an aberration but the fact is, leaders of all stripes have for tried to hold on to power by manipulating the church covenant, or the Book of Order, or the church’s by-laws, or the business meetings, or the board meetings, or whatever their respective tradition uses to make decision and wield power.

I’m not saying that we don’t need order in the church or accountability in the church (in fact, we could use a little more accountability in the church in both directions). But such controlling and manipulative activity is not representative of the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) who would have us shepherd the flock (1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28), serving as examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:3), willingly spending ourselves and being spent for them no matter what love they give in return, if any (2 Corinthians 12:15).

Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders to “shepherd the flock of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). The reminder of whose flock it is and how it was purchased should give every pastor and church leader a humble spirit that seeks the good of those under their care whatever the cost to the pastor, the power structures, the covenants, or anything else.

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Hiestand and Wilson: The Pastor as Theologian

Originally posted on A Man from Issachar:

Pastor TheologianJust a little while ago, Gerald Hiestand gave me a signed copy of The Pastor as Theologians: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision (Zondervan). I am eager to dive into the book (but I have other necessary readings that are competing for priority at the moment). Here is a teaser from the opening chapter:

Pastor theologians aren’t extinct, but sightings are rare. This is because pastors no longer traffic ideas. They cast vision, manage programs, offer counsel, and give messages. We expect our pastors to be able to preach; we expect them to know how to lead; we expect them to be good at solving problems and giving direction. None of this is inherently wrong. Indeed, all of these are important pastoral tasks. But we no longer view the pastorate as an intellectual calling (11).

What happened to the intellectual calling? Why do churches overlook this aspect of pastoral work? How are churches…

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James McGrath is 100% Correct

Originally posted on Zwinglius Redivivus:


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A Prayer for Pentecost

O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful
people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit:
Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all
things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through
Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and
ever. Amen.

Source: BCP

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