The Complementarian Woman: Permitted or Pursued?

what-is-a-complementarian

This is a re-post from Jan Wilkin, a wife, mom, and advocate for women to love God with their minds through the faithful study of his Word. She writes, speaks, and teaches women the Bible…

I recently had an exchange with a young church planter who wanted my thoughts on how to address the needs of women within his church. He told me it was clear what women are permitted to do from a doctrinal standpoint, but that he was not comfortable that his responsibility to women ended with simply identifying that list.

I asked him to think about that word—permit. It is a word women in complementarian settings hear with some frequency, and how our male leaders use it shapes our ability to contribute to church life. The challenge for any pastor would be to consider whether he is crafting a church culture that permits women to serve or one that pursues women to serve. Because a culture of permission will not ensure complementarity functions as it should.

Consider the analogy of marriage. Most pastors would counsel a young husband that he must pursue his wife to keep their union strong—that he must make a study of her needs and wants, that he must celebrate her strengths and find ways to leverage them for the good of their marriage. They would warn against the dangers of passivity. I submit that similar awareness is necessary on the part of male leadership in complementarian churches. A culture of permission can communicate passivity and dismissiveness to our women. They long to be pursued.

The negative implications of a culture of permission become clear if we overlay them onto other areas of ministry. Imagine if we swapped the language of pursuit for the language of permission in our church bulletins:

  • If you need community, you are permitted to join a community group.
  • If you battle addiction, you are permitted to go to Celebrate Recovery.
  • If you are interested in serving, you are permitted to serve in the nursery.

Now consider if we applied the language of pursuit to the way we speak about women’s roles. We would have to alter our speaking—and our thinking—rather dramatically.

  • It is one thing to say women are permitted to be deacons, and quite another to actively seek out and install women in that role.
  • It is one thing to say women are permitted to pray in the assembly or give announcements, and quite another to ensure that they have a voice on the platform.
  • It is one thing to say that women are permitted to teach women, and quite another to deliberately cultivate and celebrate their teaching gifts.

I am not certain when it became common to speak of permitting rather than pursuing women to serve, but I admit that it grieves me. Yes, there is that well-worn verse in 1 Timothy, but it seems a shame to let one occurrence of a term dominate our language and practice. It may be that permission vocabulary persists because of the unfortunate woman-as-usurper stereotype that sometimes underlies complementarian thought.

And I can’t help but reflect on how far removed that vocabulary is from the words of Adam at the creation of Eve: “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Adam’s words are a hymn of thanksgiving, a joyful acknowledgment that one has arrived whose contributions will bring vital and necessary completeness to the imago Dei. It is a hymn intoned not in the language of permission but in the language of pursuit.

How sweet a thing when a woman of apparent ministry gifting elicits from male leadership not “Oh, no,” but “At last!” God help complementarians if we spend our energies fastidiously chalking the boundaries of a racecourse we never urge or equip our women to run. I have to think that egalitarians would grow quieter in their critiques if we could point to more women within our ranks who convincingly demonstrate equal, complementary value in our churches.

Brothers, don’t permit us. Pursue us. 

Women who flourish in ministry can point to not just female leaders who affirmed them but also to male leaders who championed and cultivated them. That has certainly been my story. Glenn Smith asked me to shepherd and teach women even before I knew the depth of my desire to do so. John Bisagno affirmed and mentored me when I had no idea what I was doing. Mark Hartman taught me the beauty of a well-run ministry. Matt Chandler and Collin Hansen gave me a voice. And every day for 20 years, Jeff Wilkin has spoken unmitigated blessing and encouragement to me. Would that all women in the church could know such grace.

So here is the suggestion I offered to that young church planter: Do you desire to leverage the equal complementary value of women in your church? Don’t give us a chance to ask permission. Get out ahead of us. You approach us with what you intend to empower us to do. End the culture of permission and you will dispel the stigma of submission. We are not usurpers, we are the possessors of every capacity you lack and the celebrators of every capacity you possess.

Brothers, don’t permit us. Pursue us. 

* * * * * * * * * *

For further reading: see Thabiti Anyabwile’s insightful thoughts on this subject in a series of four posts:

 

Jen Wilkin is a wife, mom to four great kids, and an advocate for women to love God with their minds through the faithful study of his Word. She writes, speaks, and teaches women the Bible. She lives in Flower Mound, Texas, and her family calls The Village Church home. Jen is the author of None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing) (Crossway, 2016) and Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds (Crossway, 2014). You can find her at jenwilkin.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter.

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The Complementarian Woman: Permitted or Pursued?

Pastor, Am I A Christian?

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“Adoration of the Shepherds” an oil on canvas painting of the nativity, by Dutch artist Gerard van Honthorst from 1622.

 

The following is an article by the New York Times, Sunday Review Op-Ed columnist Nicolas Kristof (Dec 23, 2016).  It’s an interview with Tim Keller the Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC…

What does it mean to be a Christian in the 21st century? Can one be a Christian and yet doubt the virgin birth or the Resurrection? I put these questions to the Rev. Timothy Keller, an evangelical Christian pastor and best-selling author who is among the most prominent evangelical thinkers today. Our conversation has been edited for space and clarity.

 

KRISTOF Tim, I deeply admire Jesus and his message, but am also skeptical of themes that have been integral to Christianity — the virgin birth, the Resurrection, the miracles and so on. Since this is the Christmas season, let’s start with the virgin birth. Is that an essential belief, or can I mix and match?

KELLER If something is truly integral to a body of thought, you can’t remove it without destabilizing the whole thing. A religion can’t be whatever we desire it to be. If I’m a member of the board of Greenpeace and I come out and say climate change is a hoax, they will ask me to resign. I could call them narrow-minded, but they would rightly say that there have to be some boundaries for dissent or you couldn’t have a cohesive, integrated organization. And they’d be right. It’s the same with any religious faith.

But the earliest accounts of Jesus’ life, like the Gospel of Mark and Paul’s letter to the Galatians, don’t even mention the virgin birth. And the reference in Luke to the virgin birth was written in a different kind of Greek and was probably added later. So isn’t there room for skepticism?

If it were simply a legend that could be dismissed, it would damage the fabric of the Christian message. Luc Ferry, looking at the Gospel of John’s account of Jesus’ birth into the world, said this taught that the power behind the whole universe was not just an impersonal cosmic principle but a real person who could be known and loved. That scandalized Greek and Roman philosophers but was revolutionary in the history of human thought. It led to a new emphasis on the importance of the individual person and on love as the supreme virtue, because Jesus was not just a great human being, but the pre-existing Creator God, miraculously come to earth as a human being.

And the Resurrection? Must it really be taken literally?

Jesus’ teaching was not the main point of his mission. He came to save people through his death for sin and his resurrection. So his important ethical teaching only makes sense when you don’t separate it from these historic doctrines. If the Resurrection is a genuine reality, it explains why Jesus can say that the poor and the meek will “inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). St. Paul said without a real resurrection, Christianity is useless (1 Corinthians 15:19).

But let me push back. As you know better than I, the Scriptures themselves indicate that the Resurrection wasn’t so clear cut. Mary Magdalene didn’t initially recognize the risen Jesus, nor did some disciples, and the gospels are fuzzy about Jesus’ literal presence — especially Mark, the first gospel to be written. So if you take these passages as meaning that Jesus literally rose from the dead, why the fuzziness?

I wouldn’t characterize the New Testament descriptions of the risen Jesus as fuzzy. They are very concrete in their details. Yes, Mary doesn’t recognize Jesus at first, but then she does. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) also don’t recognize Jesus at first. Their experience was analogous to meeting someone you last saw as a child 20 years ago. Many historians have argued that this has the ring of eyewitness authenticity. If you were making up a story about the Resurrection, would you have imagined that Jesus was altered enough to not be identified immediately but not so much that he couldn’t be recognized after a few moments? As for Mark’s gospel, yes, it ends very abruptly without getting to the Resurrection, but most scholars believe that the last part of the book or scroll was lost to us.

Skeptics should consider another surprising aspect of these accounts. Mary Magdalene is named as the first eyewitness of the risen Christ, and other women are mentioned as the earliest eyewitnesses in the other gospels, too. This was a time in which the testimony of women was not admissible evidence in courts because of their low social status. The early pagan critics of Christianity latched on to this and dismissed the Resurrection as the word of “hysterical females.” If the gospel writers were inventing these narratives, they would never have put women in them. So they didn’t invent them.

The Christian Church is pretty much inexplicable if we don’t believe in a physical resurrection. N.T. Wright has argued in “The Resurrection of the Son of God” that it is difficult to come up with any historically plausible alternate explanation for the birth of the Christian movement. It is hard to account for thousands of Jews virtually overnight worshiping a human being as divine when everything about their religion and culture conditioned them to believe that was not only impossible, but deeply heretical. The best explanation for the change was that many hundreds of them had actually seen Jesus with their own eyes.

So where does that leave people like me? Am I a Christian? A Jesus follower? A secular Christian? Can I be a Christian while doubting the Resurrection?

I wouldn’t draw any conclusion about an individual without talking to him or her at length. But, in general, if you don’t accept the Resurrection or other foundational beliefs as defined by the Apostles’ Creed, I’d say you are on the outside of the boundary.

Tim, people sometimes say that the answer is faith. But, as a journalist, I’ve found skepticism useful. If I hear something that sounds superstitious, I want eyewitnesses and evidence. That’s the attitude we take toward Islam and Hinduism and Taoism, so why suspend skepticism in our own faith tradition?

I agree. We should require evidence and good reasoning, and we should not write off other religions as ‘superstitious’ and then fail to question our more familiar Jewish or Christian faith tradition.

But I don’t want to contrast faith with skepticism so sharply that they are seen to be opposites. They aren’t. I think we all base our lives on both reason and faith. For example, my faith is to some degree based on reasoning that the existence of God makes the most sense of what we see in nature, history and experience. Thomas Nagel recently wrote that the thoroughly materialistic view of nature can’t account for human consciousness, cognition and moral values. That’s part of the reasoning behind my faith. So my faith is based on logic and argument.

In the end, however, no one can demonstrably prove the primary things human beings base their lives on, whether we are talking about the existence of God or the importance of human rights and equality. Nietzsche argued that the humanistic values of most secular people, such as the importance of the individual, human rights and responsibility for the poor, have no place in a completely materialistic universe. He even accused people holding humanistic values as being “covert Christians” because it required a leap of faith to hold to them. We must all live by faith.

I’ll grudgingly concede your point: My belief in human rights and morality may be more about faith than logic. But is it really analogous to believe in things that seem consistent with science and modernity, like human rights, and those that seem inconsistent, like a virgin birth or resurrection?

I don’t see why faith should be seen as inconsistent with science. There is nothing illogical about miracles if a Creator God exists. If a God exists who is big enough to create the universe in all its complexity and vastness, why should a mere miracle be such a mental stretch? To prove that miracles could not happen, you would have to know beyond a doubt that God does not exist. But that is not something anyone can prove.

Science must always assume that an effect has a repeatable, natural cause. That is its methodology. Imagine, then, for the sake of argument that a miracle actually occurred. Science would have no way to confirm a non-repeatable, supernatural cause. Alvin Plantinga argued that to say that there must be a scientific cause for any apparently miraculous phenomenon is like insisting that your lost keys must be under the streetlight because that’s the only place you can see.

Can I ask: Do you ever have doubts? Do most people of faith struggle at times over these kinds of questions?

Yes and yes. In the Bible, the Book of Jude (Chapter 1, verse 22) tells Christians to “be merciful to those who doubt.” We should not encourage people to simply stifle all doubts. Doubts force us to think things out and re-examine our reasons, and that can, in the end, lead to stronger faith.

I’d also encourage doubters of religious teachings to doubt the faith assumptions that often drive their skepticism. While Christians should be open to questioning their faith assumptions, I would hope that secular skeptics would also question their own. Neither statement — “There is no supernatural reality beyond this world” and “There is a transcendent reality beyond this material world” — can be proven empirically, nor is either self-evident to most people. So they both entail faith. Secular people should be as open to questions and doubts about their positions as religious people.

What I admire most about Christianity is the amazing good work it inspires people to do around the world. But I’m troubled by the evangelical notion that people go to heaven only if they have a direct relationship with Jesus. Doesn’t that imply that billions of people — Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus — are consigned to hell because they grew up in non-Christian families around the world? That Gandhi is in hell?

The Bible makes categorical statements that you can’t be saved except through faith in Jesus (John 14:6; Acts 4:11-12). I’m very sympathetic to your concerns, however, because this seems so exclusive and unfair. There are many views of this issue, so my thoughts on this cannot be considered the Christian response. But here they are:

You imply that really good people (e.g., Gandhi) should also be saved, not just Christians. The problem is that Christians do not believe anyone can be saved by being good. If you don’t come to God through faith in what Christ has done, you would be approaching on the basis of your own goodness. This would, ironically, actually be more exclusive and unfair, since so often those that we tend to think of as “bad” — the abusers, the haters, the feckless and selfish — have themselves often had abusive and brutal backgrounds.

Christians believe that it is those who admit their weakness and need for a savior who get salvation. If access to God is through the grace of Jesus, then anyone can receive eternal life instantly. This is why “born again” Christianity will always give hope and spread among the “wretched of the earth.”

I can imagine someone saying, “Well, why can’t God just accept everyone — universal salvation?” Then you create a different problem with fairness. It means God wouldn’t really care about injustice and evil.

There is still the question of fairness regarding people who have grown up away from any real exposure to Christianity. The Bible is clear about two things — that salvation must be through grace and faith in Christ, and that God is always fair and just in all his dealings. What it doesn’t directly tell us is exactly how both of those things can be true together. I don’t think it is insurmountable. Just because I can’t see a way doesn’t prove there cannot be any such way. If we have a God big enough to deserve being called God, then we have a God big enough to reconcile both justice and love.

Tim, thanks for a great conversation. And, whatever my doubts, this I believe in: Merry Christmas!

You can view the article online here.

Pastor, Am I A Christian?

All Staff & Elder Christmas Party

christmas-party

We celebrated our annual all staff and elder Christmas Party last Sunday evening. The following is a letter I wrote to our staff, elders, and spouses.  I thought you might like to read it too.  What a great team!    

Dear Staff & Elders:

We have so many people who are so diligent, sacrificial — and just plain good at their jobs!  Thank you all for your sacrifice of time, energy, and resources to represent the kingdom of God in the South Bay through King’s Harbor Church.  You chose to stick around during some difficult times and I truly believe the best days are ahead (1 Cor 2:9).

Worship Leaders:  From prayerful set selection, to practice, to playing joyfully for three services (or COTB), and all the communication required to make this happen each and every week.  And you do it with such grace week after week after week.  Thanks for all you do!

Staff: You’re amazing.  We’re learning how to work together as a team.  We can do so much more as a team.  I know it can be difficult to learn new skills while your plate is full (and your heart is heavy) but you are doing it by God’s grace and power.  And it is SO great that we can laugh along the way. 

Elders:  You’ve been on board for a year now.  Thank you for your sacrificial service.  You came in with your plate piled high and you have put in countless hours of prayer, (robust) dialogue, learning, listening, thinking, reading, and growing.  It takes heat to be forged into a team and you have been willing to endure the heat for the greater good.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Spouses of all of the above:  No doubt you spend a lot of time listening.  Weird stuff happens in churches.  Thanks for listening.  Thanks too for enduring those times alone when your spouse is at a church event and you’d rather s/he be with you.  (And we get that sometimes you’re grateful for the alone time ;))  Thanks for your patient endurance — and for your prayers.

When all is said and done I see us becoming what you said you wanted — a community of active, intentional Christ followers with Mary’s heart and Martha’s hands.  Well done.

With Advent Gratitude,

Gregg (& Linda)

All Staff & Elder Christmas Party

KHC Advent Series 2016

advent-2016

Advent, from the Latin word adventus meaning arrival, is the 4-week period prior to Christmas.  Advent is a time of preparation and expectation for the coming of Christ, the time before the actual celebration of the “joy to the world” that God’s incarnation becomes.  It is a time to ponder the great sacrifice that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, made for us by coming to earth as a vulnerable infant.  He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, and rose from the dead for us.  He saved us from our sins and eternal damnation because of His great love, and adopts each person who is awakened to the gospel into His family.

During the Advent Season we will take the time to reflect on the themes of an awakened HOPE, which gives way to an abiding PEACE, which blossoms into a fragrant JOY, which causes sacrificial LOVE to flourish.  This will prepare KHC to be ready to engage a world that Christ has entered.  To faithfully remember the narrative of what God has done will empower us to look forward to a preferred future with passion and purpose.

The Meaning of the Advent Wreath

An advent wreath can be a teaching tool and a reminder for Christians of the true meaning of Christmas.  Traditionally, the Advent wreath symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent.  It is typically a circular candleholder that holds five candles. During the season of Advent one candle on the wreath is lit each Sunday until all of the candles, including the fifth candle, which is lit on Christmas Eve/Day.  Each candle customarily represents an aspect of the spiritual preparation for the celebration of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

11/26-27 Hope: Romans 15:12-13

G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances that we know to be desperate.” It is not a blissful ignorance or wishful thinking but a subversive cheer that refuses to let circumstance triumph over courage, doubt overcome faith, or adversity conquer compassion. This is not easy; it is not our default setting. When we hit brick walls, the first emotion that naturally arises is generally not hope. Hope requires a strength that comes from focusing on a greater vision than what is wrong. We may not have every problem figured out, but we serve a God who loved this world enough to join us in it. We trust that when Jesus said, “Behold, I am making all things new,” he meant it.

12/3-4 Peace: Luke 2:7-15

Biblical peace is a more than a cessation of wars. It is a reconstituting of reality where mercy and justice reign, power becomes subservient to hospitality, and governance is driven by grace. Biblical peace is a culmination of a rescue plan that God initiated through amazing grace. Advent invites us to see the peace of God as a way of life.

12/10-11 Joy: John 16:20-24

Joy can invade our hearts unexpectedly. It jumps out at us from behind sunsets, peeks out in the smile of a stranger, and takes hold in a child’s laughter. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit biologist and philosopher, once wrote, “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” If this is true, every moment of joy is like a little Christmas in our lives. Advent is not only a time when we hope for the coming of Christ in great history-changing events. It is also a time where we hope for those little moments of joy, and invite God to use us as instruments of joy for a lost and broken world.

12/17-18 Love: 1 John 4:7-11

In the fourth century, Saint Augustine wrote, “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.” Advent gives us space to step back and reorient our lives to receive God’s love and share God’s love. When we are able to take the focus off ourselves we begin to see the needs of others.

KHC Advent Series 2016

The Gift of God’s Judgement: Our Election Crisis and Opportunity

I wanted to post something about the election — and ask, what needs to be our response moving forward? A few weeks ago I asked a question in my sermon referencing the election, “How did we get here?” I also quoted David Souter, retired Supreme Court Justice as saying that the greatest hindrance to an ongoing vibrant democracy is “civic ignorance.” I do believe that at some level we’re all responsible for the choices we had in the election. The first article I posted in this space was by Tim Stafford, a freelance writer and Senior Writer for Christianity Today Magazine. The article is titled After the Nightmare and can be found here. (Not everyone will share his specific views.) I’ve replaced that article with the one below by Joe Rigney, a professor at Bethlehem College and Seminary. The article was posted on the Desiring God website. I think both articles draw the same conclusion but Rigney is more even in his criticisms. From my understanding Rigney’s basic thesis is that whichever candidate wins/won the presidential election, it’s God’s judgement and we Christians should embrace it as a gift.  The second sentence of his article says, “What should we do when faced with two candidates who fall so radically short of basic decency, honesty, and integrity?” (I used that line in the same sermon referenced above.)  In replacing the last blog post with this one I am trying to embrace our current reality — without trying to identify with one candidate or the other. (Again, that’s why I switched the article.)  Read Rigney’s article. You may or may not agree, but I think the important thing is that we should be able to engage in humble, civil dialogue about our differences and do whatever is necessary to help our president elect be successful — and for the cause of Christ to flourish. KHC is serving a larger community with very diverse political views. I hope we’re able to listen well.  I do think Rigney’s article speaks to both sides of the isle…

2016-election

It’s no secret that American Christians are conflicted about this election. What should we do when faced with two candidates who fall so radically short of basic decency, honesty, and integrity?

To begin with, we need to remember that decisions about voting are a matter of prudence and wisdom. Biblical truths and principles must be brought to bear, but when we’re dealing with applying convictions in our twenty-first-century context, we’re making decisions upon which Christians can (and will) disagree. We may disagree strongly; we may try to persuade and exhort others to see things our way, but there is no “Thus sayeth the Lord” about what action to take this November. (For a fuller perspective, see the helpful article “How Should a Christian Vote?”)

But if voting is a matter of prudence and wisdom, we need to have as clear a view of our times as we can. To that end, here are a few observations about the choice we are facing in our present moment.

Recognize God’s Judgment

If you listen to Christians who support the Republican candidate, they’ll argue that the Democrat’s election would push this country over the cliff. She’ll undoubtedly appoint liberal activists to the Supreme Court who will further erode our rights and freedoms. Religious liberty will be curtailed, and more unborn children will die as abortion is further enshrined in our national culture.

Christian supporters of the Democratic candidate feel the same, in the other direction. If he is elected, they argue, then we’re giving control of our nuclear codes to a man with the self-control of a five-year-old. More than that, we’re treating his race-baiting, demagoguery, and treatment of women lightly; we may disapprove of them, but we’re still willing to overlook them and put him in office. In both cases, supporters of one candidate see the election of the other as pushing us over the cliff, as taking us past the point of no return.

But what if we find ourselves in agreement with both sides? The election of either candidate represents a colossal failure on the part of this nation. We could go so far as to say that the election of either one of them is evidence of God’s judgment on America. But that’s not the whole story.

The reality is that the fact that we’re faced with this horrible choice is divine judgment. It’s as though God is saying to us, as he did to the ancient Israelites in the book of Amos, “I sent you two grossly unfit candidates, and still you would not return to me. I sent vileness from one party and corruption from the other, and still you would not return to me” (see, for example, Amos 4:6–11).

God is holding a mirror up to America, as it were. He is showing us who we are as a nation. We may not like what we see, but the two major party candidates represent us well. Lies, corruption, selfishness, unbridled ambition, shameless sexual immorality — all committed with a high hand. That’s our nation. God is giving us the leaders that we deserve.

Manage God’s Judgment?

If the choice between these candidates shows us who we are, and if that is evidence of God’s judgment, then the one thing we must avoid is trying to manage or finesse God’s judgments. This was Israel’s temptation throughout her history: embracing Assyria to ward off Egypt or embracing Egypt to ward off Assyria.

When we attempt to manage God’s judgments, we become reactive. Out of fear of one evil, we embrace another. Instead of acting from a confident trust in God’s goodness in the midst of a cultural crisis, we panic and slide to one extreme or another. Instead, as Christians, we ought to embrace the judgments of God.

Embracing God’s judgments sounds odd to our ears. “How could we embrace something as painful and awful as divine judgment?” But this is because we misunderstand God’s judgments. As someone once said, “God’s judgments are not when things go wrong; it’s when God starts to put things right.”

Embrace God’s Judgment

What would it mean to embrace the judgment of God in our present moment? At least three things.

First, it starts with repentance for our sins. Judgment always begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17). Sins that are celebrated without shame in the wider culture are almost always present and active in the church, even when they are hidden. Removing the log from our own eyes is the prerequisite to speck-hunting in our neighbor’s (Matthew 7:3–5). Heartfelt repentance for our sins is where we must start.

Second, embracing the judgments of God means drawing a line somewhere. Perhaps we could begin by expecting our candidates to measure up to basic standards of decency, honesty, and integrity. When Jethro urged Moses to appoint rulers in Israel, the list of qualifications was short: fear God, be trustworthy, hate a bribe (Exodus 18:21). By almost all accounts the two major party candidates fail that test. And what’s more, they fail it with a brazenness and persistence that is shocking. There is a high-handed shamelessness to the dishonesty, corruption, and wickedness that, in my judgment, renders them morally unfit to govern.

Third, embracing the judgments of God means that we refuse to peddle lies and falsehoods on behalf of disgraceful politicians. We refuse to use platforms given to us by God for gospel ministry to carry water for the dishonest and corrupt. It means we stop pretending “he is sensitive to the things of the Spirit” or, like King David, “a man after God’s own heart.” It means we stop pretending “she is deeply committed to the vulnerable” when she is an outspoken and persistent advocate for the legal killing of unborn children. Whatever prudential decisions we make in the voting booth, as Christians, we must refuse to sully the name of Christ by trafficking in falsehoods on behalf of wicked politicians.

What we know for sure is that it is an opportunity for us to turn our hearts to God through Jesus Christ. He is exalted. He dwells on high. And he will be the stability of our times.

What It Will Mean for Some

None of the above dictates how we should vote. But many Christians may find wisdom and prudence leading them to an independent or third-party candidate. At least three additional reasons may press them in this direction.

First, they want to maintain their integrity. They don’t think they could look themselves in the mirror if they voted for candidates that are as morally unfit as the two major party candidates are. They share the spirit of Alexander Solzhenitzen, who said, “Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”

Second, for years, conservative Christians have been told that they are simply shills for the Republican Party. They’ve been told that they should vote for any candidate with an (R) after his name provided he pays lip service (however insincere) to the issues that matter to us: the sanctity of human life, religious liberty, and God’s design for marriage (among others). The present election may be a great opportunity to prove those accusations false.

It may also be an opportunity for progressive Christians to consider the same from their side; the fact that there is no comparable movement against the nominee of the Religious Left is saddening, given her adamantine support of unfettered abortion, her defense and enablement of her husband’s debauchery, and the overall mendacity and corruption of her family empire, from email servers to favor trading to covering it all up.

Finally, for some Christians, refusing to vote for the two major party candidates may serve as a signal. A large block of votes for alternative candidates might signal to the major parties that there are available votes, provided they nominate acceptable candidates. Or more importantly, it may serve as a signal to God that they see what he is doing. He is shaking America so that only the unshakeable will remain.

Whatever this present crisis proves to be politically, what we know for sure is that it is an opportunity for us to turn our hearts to God through Jesus Christ. He is exalted. He dwells on high. And he will be the stability of our times (Isaiah 33:6).

The Gift of God’s Judgement: Our Election Crisis and Opportunity

Happy Reformation Day!!

October 31st is Reformation Day. Next year will be the 500 year anniversary of Reformation Day. Following is a blog post by Stephen Nichols — who also hosts an excellent podcast entitled “5-Minutes In Church History.” Check it out here.

reformation-day

A single event on a single day changed the world. It was October 31, 1517. Brother Martin, a monk and a scholar, had struggled for years with his church, the church in Rome. He had been greatly disturbed by an unprecedented indulgence sale. The story has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. Let’s meet the cast.

First, there is the young bishop—too young by church laws—Albert of Mainz. Not only was he bishop over two bishoprics, he desired an additional archbishopric over Mainz. This too was against church laws. So Albert appealed to the Pope in Rome, Leo X. From the De Medici family, Leo X greedily allowed his tastes to exceed his financial resources. Enter the artists and sculptors, Raphael and Michelangelo.

When Albert of Mainz appealed for a papal dispensation, Leo X was ready to deal. Albert, with the papal blessing, would sell indulgences for past, present, and future sins. All of this sickened the monk, Martin Luther. Can we buy our way into heaven? Luther had to speak out.

But why October 31? November 1 held a special place in the church calendar as All Soul’s Day. On November 1, 1517, a massive exhibit of newly acquired relics would be on display at Wittenberg, Luther’s home city. Pilgrims would come from all over, genuflect before the relics, and take hundreds, if not thousands, of years off time in purgatory. Luther’s soul grew even more vexed. None of this seemed right.

Martin Luther, a scholar, took quill in hand, dipped it in his inkwell and penned his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517. These were intended to spark a debate, to stir some soul-searching among his fellow brothers in the church. The 95 Theses sparked far more than a debate. The 95 Theses also revealed the church was far beyond rehabilitation. It needed a reformation. The church, and the world, would never be the same.

THE CHURCH’S TRUE TREASURE IS THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.

One of Luther’s 95 Theses simply declares, “The Church’s true treasure is the gospel of Jesus Christ.” That alone is the meaning of Reformation Day. The church had lost sight of the gospel because it had long ago papered over the pages of God’s Word with layer upon layer of tradition. Tradition always brings about systems of works, of earning your way back to God. It was true of the Pharisees, and it was true of medieval Roman Catholicism. Didn’t Christ Himself say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light?” Reformation Day celebrates the joyful beauty of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ.

What is Reformation Day? It is the day the light of the gospel broke forth out of darkness. It was the day that began the Protestant Reformation. It was a day that led to Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and may other Reformers helping the church find its way back to God’s Word as the only authority for faith and life and leading the church back to the glorious doctrines of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It kindled the fires of missionary endeavors, it led to hymn writing and congregational singing, and it led to the centrality of the sermon and preaching for the people of God. It is the celebration of a theological, ecclesiastical, and cultural transformation.

So we celebrate Reformation Day. This day reminds us to be thankful for our past and to the Monk turned Reformer. What’s more, this day reminds us of our duty, our obligation, to keep the light of the gospel at the center of all we do.

Happy Reformation Day!!

6 Social Media DON’Ts For Church Staff & Leaders

social-media

In this election cycle it is easy to get caught up in political discussions online.  If you’re a leader in the church I think it’s important to keep in mind that what we say online WILL reflect back on the church where we’re involved.  The following article is a reprint by Katie Viscontini who serves as the Business Development Coordinator at Vanderbloemen Search Group…

If you’re a church leader or a church staff member and you’re an active social media user, way to go! Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Periscope, Instagram, or Snapchat, you’re using today’s main communication tools to share your voice, connect with friends and family, and/or encourage others.

However, don’t be fooled into thinking that whatever you post on social media doesn’t reflect on your church (and ultimately on Christ). It does. Gone are the days where folks can assert that “the opinions shared here are my own,” on their Twitter bio. That may be true, but you better believe that everyone reading your opinions will connect them with your workplace, your church, and your beliefs.

YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE IS A DIRECT REFLECTION OF YOUR PLACE OF WORSHIP AND MINISTRY.

The truth is, social media is a powerful tool, but it is also a two-edged sword. This is especially so if you work in a church. Avoid any potential pitfalls by not committing these 6 social media mistakes.

  1. DON’T think anything you post is temporary. 

Social media is fast-paced and fast-changing, so it’s easy to think what you’re posting isn’t a big deal. But once you’ve published something on the internet for all to see, you should consider it permanent. And much like tattoos, something permanent requires a huge amount of discretion before acting on it.

DO remind yourself, “What I’m posting is permanent” when using social media.

  1. DON’T post questionable photos.

Everyone has different opinions on what might be considered “questionable” in a photo, but in general, use good discretion and remember again that what you’re posting is permanent. In Romans 14, Paul tells us to, “decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” Some photos are meant to be texted to friends or emailed to family, not put on social media for all to see. In general, when in doubt about a photo, just don’t post it.

DO ask yourself before posting a photo, “Am I comfortable with this reflecting back on my church?”

  1. DON’T act on knee-jerk, emotional reactions. 

It’s so easy to be misunderstood or to misunderstand others when communication is over the internet – you can’t hear tones of voices, see body language, or know where something is coming from. Because of this, it’s never wise to act on a knee-jerk emotional response. Hold your tongue and pray before you respond to something. Many people have typed something in the heat of the moment and greatly regretted hitting that “send” button later.

DO memorize James’ advice: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

  1. DON’T get involved in heated debates.

It’s okay to have strong opinions, but you’re far more likely to do damage than good when you get involved in heated debate on social media. There are more constructive ways to share your messages and share Christ’s love than engaging in Facebook disputes. Again, remember that anything you share reflects on your church, and that while we are called to be wise as serpents, we are also called to be “gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

DO tell yourself, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15: 1) before engaging in social media debates.

  1. DON’T be a negative Nancy.

CHURCH STAFF & LEADERS SHOULD REMAIN POSITIVE AND ENCOURAGING ON ALL OF THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS.

Anything you post that could be construed negatively could reflect badly on your church or on the hope you have in Christ. Instead, focus on this admonition from Philippians: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

DO use your social media presence to encourage others, share positive things, and ultimately point to Jesus.

  1. DON’T attack other believers.

Too many church leaders have fallen in the public eye. Worse than that, usually they are also torn to shreds by other believers. When we criticize other believers, non-believers may see us as hypocritical. Even if you strongly disagree with someone’s actions, remember that Jesus died to forgive even the worst of sins. Because we have been shown grace, we must also show grace to others. Jesus said that the world would know we were His disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35). Don’t compromise this witness.

DO focus on those you want to emulate rather than those you disagree with.

Because everything they post reflects on their church, on Christians, and on Christ, church leaders and church staff members simply must exercise extreme discretion, humility, and empathy in their social media presences. Just as Solomon asked for wisdom as the most desirable possession he could have, may we all seek the same wisdom in what we post for the world to see.

How can you use your social media accounts to glorify God and grow the Kingdom?

6 Social Media DON’Ts For Church Staff & Leaders