Tag Archives: church

A brief thought-excercise regarding pastrixes [female pastors]

In I Timothy, Paul tells us why he wrote what he wrote in this particular epistle. The entire book is a narrative that connects and ties in across all 4 chapters, and near the end He says. “I am writing you these instructions so that,  if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” That’s the context and that’s important. Paul was not writing about how people ought to conduct themselves in their homes, or in their jobs, or in institutes of higher learning. Rather his concern was in creating parameters and theological fences that would safeguard the pillar and foundation of the truth- the Church. He was giving Timothy certain specific instructions and teachings that he, Paul, currently had in effect in the Churches that he oversaw and wanted his young charge to continue in likewise. Paul had planted the Church there years ago and had spent three years ministering to it and growing it. Now with Timothy as the evangelist and charged with her safekeeping, Paul taught Timothy what he must teach and point out to the people- things that he had taught elsewhere and in other Churches.

Let’s look at the list of teachings and ask ourselves three questions for each one. 1]  Is this how people should conduct themselves in the house of God? 2] Which of these conducts are cultural constructs and merely existed for this particular church for a very short period of time [a couple months, decades, years] , and are no longer applicable today. 3] What evidence do we see in the text that any of these are cultural constructs and should only be taken as such?

1. “I urge,then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

2. “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.”

 3. “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”

4. “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.”

5. “Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”

 6. “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.”

7. “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.”

8. “He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”

9. “In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.”

10. “They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.”

11. “They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacon.”

12. “In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.”

13. “A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Later on, Paul exhort Timothy to “Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” What things? What things are Timothy to command and teach?  The instructions of how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household. What does that include? Are we to suppose that it includes everything Paul said there EXCEPT for the one teaching and command that Paul roots in nature itself and the creative order? Even a cursory examination shows this is untenable. Paul says that Elders ought to be husbands of one wife. Is that a cultural construct only for a short time? We are told that overseers are to be faithful to their wives. Was that just a cultural thing “for them”? No. We don’t see any artificial breaks in his instructions that somehow vindicate or validate this position, but rather we see a seamless, purposeful instruction.

Paul appealed to the creative order only once in all of those 4 chapters. Are we supposed to believe that the one time Paul appeals to nature and creation itself as part of the basis for his argument is the one time that it’s only a fleeting cultural wisp of a suggestion, but all the other commands not rooted in nature and the creative order are to last for time immemorial regardless of time and culture? Paul tells Timothy that “If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters,you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.” Point out what things? What truths of the faith which are good teaching? Things like men should pray and lift up holy hands without anger, women should dress modestly, deacons should not indulge in much wine, and women should not teach or assume authority over a man in Church. The truths of the faith and the good teachings were the instructions he had been given.

So I ask again, of the thirteen things listed there, look at each one individually and ask yourselves ” 1]  Is this how people should conduct themselves in the house of God? 2] Which of these conducts are cultural constructs and merely existed for this particular church for a very short period of time [a couple months, decades, years] , and are no longer applicable today. 3] What evidence do we see in the text that any of these are cultural constructs and should only be taken as such?

I’m convinced from the text that the answer is “Yes, none and none” and I would welcome any dialogue to the contrary.

Posting Domestic Abuse Hotlines In The Ladies Bathroom At Church?

I know of a large Church where a church committee made up of both men and women wanted to post a domestic abuse hotline in the ladies’ bathroom at the church.  The committee approached the pastors and the elders for their approval and the pastors denied their request. In response to hearing about this, certain people have become visibly upset, saying that this demonstrates all sorts of evil intentions, specifically that the Church doesn’t care about women, that they are tacitly encouraging abuse, that this is evidence of male headship and submission gone awry, and a host of other things. Their reasoning for these charges is simple[ish]; they don’t believe there could be a good reason for the Church leadership [all men] to deny their request.

What do you all think? Are there legitimate reasons why the church might deny their request? Do you think its a good idea to post something like this in the bathroom? If they denied the request, does this necessarily mean that they are tacitly encouraging abuse?If you were on that committee how would you feel? Discuss!

Singing Ozzy Osbourne in Church?

A few months ago Newspring Church@ Florence, one of his multi-church video sites, had the idea to Play Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” as part of their praise and worship set. Newspring is no stranger to this sort of controversy, having infamously played ACDC’s Highway to Hell as their opening song on Easter Sunday. When asked about that particular choice, lead Pastor Perry Noble said that the reason he played it was to “p*** off the religious people”. Other songs that have been sung by the band over there have included Kelly Clarkson’s “I do not hook up“, Taylor Swifts “Love Story,” the Darkness’ “I believe in a thing called love” Christiana Aguilera’s Hurt, Metallica’s Enter Sandman, and a host of others. In regards to this specific song, I’ve embedded the video below

In terms of what people think about this, I know several people who think this is one of the coolest ideas alive. They believe  part of the Church’s mission is to be attractional and that anything they can do short of sin to get people into Church is a good thing. A certain subset of this groups also believe part of the Church’s mission is to be entertaining, and so anything short of sin that can be done to keep the congregation members from getting bored while they are in Church is a good thing, as this also ensures repeat visits. With regard to playing these specific songs, I imagine that  much of it revolves around the Churches ability to be culturally hip and relevant, with the idea that playing this type of song will draw people in and then they’ll be able to experience Jesus while they’re here. Another group thinks this is a horrible idea, and that it is some mixture of blasphemy and idolatry as people replace worship songs with classic rock and roll in a desperate bid for relevancy. They would say that this type of mindset and everything that goes with it is what makes a goat factory that produces unbelievers with spiritual convictions of the most shallowest depth.

While I would fall somewhere near the latter category, I want to focus on how something like this blurs the line between praise and worship, and something else altogether. I certainly don’t like the idea of them playing these songs during Church, but if you watch those videos of those others songs you’ll notice at least that they are merely singing them.  They don’t have the lyrics posted up on power point for people to sing along. There is some nuanced division between song A and songs B, even if its hard to see and is very minute. At the very least this represents some sort of delineation between a rock and roll song meant to entertain, and a psalm, hymn or spiritual song, regardless of which side you take.

But this song was different, because in this case they projected the lyrics up on power point for the congregation to sing along.  On this particular Sunday morning there was no delineation. There was no separation from the Ozzy Osbourne song and the worship songs. They flowed naturally into each other and people were encouraged to sing along with the Ozzy song  and then jump right in with fare like “Revelation Song” and “It is Well”. That blurs the lines, if not completely decimates it. I’ve written before how the worship music is in and of itself a sermon. I made the case  that

“When we worship, we are saying things about the Lord. We are teaching, rebuking, professing, declaring, correcting and confessing based on the revelation of God in Christ as revealed in his word.  That is the function that our praise and worship lyrics have. Paul says that we ought to teach each other the words of Christ using hymns and spiritual songs- the intent being that this is how the words of Christ will dwell richly in us. That is how we will know more about God, and how we will know more about the words of Christ and how he works through his words. That is a sermon.That is preaching.So when we listen and sing lyrics, we need to ask ourselves “what are we teaching others? What sorts of things are we expounding upon? Are we accurately reflecting God’s character? Are we accurately teaching the words of Christ?  Are we teaching the scriptures?” We also ought to ask ourselves if we are preaching deep, thoughtful sermons through our music, or if we are singing light, breezy, unclear, muddled, mindless, vague sermons?

At the time I was arguing against vapid christianish songs, but how much more true is that when you throw in a secular song like this? When your praise and worship set is 6 songs long, and one of those songs is by someone known as “The Prince of Darkness” shouldn’t that be enough to send up some red flags? I hope that irony is not lost on people. When we consider the breadth of the lyrical content and some of the satanic, hypersexualized songs that Ozzy and his former bands have sung in the past,  I suppose on one hand I should be thankful that they did not choose other songs to be sung, and wonder how many people will think the Church is tacitly or overtly encouraging the listening of this artist? Or perhaps I should be thankful they did not  change any of the lyrics to make it more christian-y… i.e. “I’m riding on the rails of the Jesus train…”. Is it wrong to secretly hope that someone would have thrown a dead bat on stage during that song, just to see what would have happened?

Which brings us to a few questions, what do you think about singing these sorts of songs in Church? Is there a difference between the band singing them solo and having the congregation join in via lyrics on power point? Does this blur the line between worship and secular songs? Lastly, if Newspring had enough money, and Ozzy was coherent enough and willing, do you think they would have brought him in to sing live and would that have been a good idea?

Going “Deeper” in Church; a Caution


For centuries people have complained, protested, asked, begged, argued, whined, and have essentially driven themselves to distraction because the have desired to go “deeper in Church”. I imagine this has caused many Pastors to become very frustrated at times, if not downright discouraged. Its a familiar theme. It is the last refrain of the restless. People want deeper church, deeper bible studies, deeper worship and deeper community,  but I’m  not sure they always know what that means.  I would imagine that  from a Pastors perspective it is difficult to please the people who are always clamoring for “deeper”,  especially because everyone seems to have a different idea of what “deep” is.

1. Depth as facts and the accumulation of knowledge.

This is the group that thinks the teaching is deep if they’ve learned something they didn’t already know. Satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment comes if they can walk out of a sanctuary with more information than they had coming in. For some it is looking for new ways to read bible verse, or delving into a more thorough explanation of the context. For others it is hearing a proper exegesis, uncovering a textual variant, or pondering thoughtful nuances. What is the caution? In many ways this is “deep”, but  information is not the goal, and information alone is not depth. When this accumulation of knowledge becomes the main purpose it can produce an elite class of biblical hobbyists who are almost Gnostic-like in their love for more knowledge, isolating  themselves from the community of faith and breeding a superiority due to the rigors of their intellectual pursuits. Is that really deep? Knowing biblical facts is important, but surely we want to go deeper than the demons, who know more about Scripture than we do and are devils still.

2. Depth as “Insights for Daily Living”

This group believes that “deep” means “insight for life.” They want to see the scriptures applied to their daily living, as method and techniques, so that they can behave a certain way or garner for themselves certain results.  “Deep” means “applied well,” and transformation [rather than information] is the goal. The purpose is personal renewal, and so a high premium is placed on the unpacking of life principles which will be conducive to life transformation. In many ways this is good because Pastors don’t want people looking in the mirror of God’s Word and then walking away unaware of their reflection. Every teacher should hope for transformation. What is the caution? Even if people hope to apply the Bible to their everyday life, there is the propensity to be self-absorbed readers who skim the Scriptures in search for practical tidbits as if they are reading a self-help book.  Is that really deep? If we go about Bible study this way, we never deal with the big picture of Scripture and therefore end up spiritualizing earth-shattering truths into cute and quaint verses and sticking them on coffee mugs.

3. Depth as relationships and “doing life together”

This group sees depth in the width and height and breadth of their relationships. Interpersonal relationships where quantitative and qualitative time is spent together is valued and esteemed. The focus is not on shallow acquaintances, but rather the forming of loving communities where they feel they can be open and honest with each other. They thrive in small groups where the purpose of the gathered group is not as important or central as the friendships that will be formed there. They find themselves unfulfilled if they are in a Church where they find it difficult to connect and “do life” together. What is the caution? They like to talk about spiritual things, and yet thorny and prickly issues of doctrine are often avoided as there is the fear it will cause division.  To them the body of Christ  is a family that does not fight and unity is central, and with this can come a failure to take theology seriously. Is that really deep? Relationships are important, but not if it means sacrificing spiritual growth and  doctrinal proficiency at the altar of stagnation.

There are more categories than that,  but it serves to show what a frustrating thing it can be for Pastors who are juggling these complaints from different people, and what cautions can arise for those who have particular views of what “going deep” is. Clearly a certain degree of balance is important. But those are only three examples, and even then the situation isn’t so easy to untangle. Because then you throw in the people who like the preaching, but think the music isn’t deep enough, or who like the music, but think the liturgy isn’t deep enough, or who like the liturgy, but think the sacraments aren’t deep enough, or who like doing like together and the insights for daily living, but think the preaching isn’t deep enough. It is a wild mess  and it is a wearing, weighty thing for any Minister to endure. For this reason we need to check ourselves before we start talking about going deeper and how something isn’t deep enough, particularly at an individual level, lest we needlessly discourage our Pastors without some introspection on our parts.

Be Pastorally Sensitive on Mothers Day.

I remember celebrating Mothers Day in Church. After a mother-themed sermon which lauded the joys and blessings of motherhood, the Pastor would invariably ask all the Mothers to stand. The congregation would then clap for them and give them a round of applause. At that point, if they were lucky, the kids would go around giving roses or some other flower to all the mothers who were standing. I’ll be listening to all the podcasts of todays sermons over the course of the week, and I would imagine that many services will bear such will similarities.

What needs to be kept in mind however, is that mothers day is a painful day for many in the church. It is a particularly sensitive time in many congregations, and pastors and church leaders often don’t even know it. This is true even in congregations that don’t focus the entire service around the event as if it were a feast day on the church’s liturgical calendar. There are many situations I can think of that are painful on Mother’s Day: couples who cannot have children and wrestle and weep over their infertility, those who have lost a child, single parents, those who have lost their mother, those who had an unloving mother or a strained relationship with her, single women who desire to have a family, women who are living post-abortion, mothers whose children have rebelled, couples whose adoptions have fallen through, couples who have experienced serial miscarriages,  and many others.

I would suggest a few things. First, please avoid making a distinction between mothers and non-mothers in a physical way [as previously mentioned, having all the moms stand up or giving flowers to all the moms]. This is emotionally devastating to husbands and wives who cannot bear children, and may as well be a huge neon sign over their heads advertising their infertility. Pastors who are sensitive leaders will avoid this like the plague. Instead, it would be better to acknowledge the day and proceed to pray earnestly for the full range of conflicting emotions that are being experienced on that day, giving equal time and attention to the whole gamut.

This leads to the second thing, which is the importance of recognizing that this is a time of the year when it is crucially important for the Pastor to pastor all the people through that day, not just the mothers.  As it were, it would be beneficial to acknowledge all who are joyful, all who are content, all who feel blessed,  who are hurting, all who are grieving, all who are experiencing great sorrow. Russel Moore says that “Some pastors, commendably, mention in their sermons and prayers on this day those who want to be mothers but who have not had their prayers answered. Some recognize those who are mothers not to children, but to the rest of the congregation as they disciple spiritual daughters in the faith. This is more than a “shout-out” to those who don’t have children. It is a call to the congregation to rejoice in those who “mother” the church with wisdom, and it’s a call to the church to remember those who long desperately to hear “Mama” directed at them.”I think that is one way among many that may be helpful.

John Piper says ” There are millions of single women, and many will stay single. There is a grace from God for that—a very special grace and for some even a calling. There are women who are single mothers and the marriage element in the calling I just described is painfully missing. Jesus Christ has a grace for that. There are women who are married and cannot, or, with their husbands, choose not, to have children. Jesus has a grace for that.”  Again, I think having that sort of mindset and speaking that over the congregation would be a warm blanket- a balm for the soul for those anxious and grieving.

Mothers day is not a singular day of joy. This can be a very, very dark day in the lives of many couples. This can be a gut-wrenching, chest-heaving, profoundly painful day. Please be pastorally sensitive when you deliver your messages, and when you consider what Mother Days emphasis you will be delivering.


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