everything, but Scripture at the heart of it

Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and suffer reproach, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1 Timothy 4:7b-16; NRSVue

This entire passage is important, and not just for the woman or man servant of God in a pastoral role, but really for the entire church. After all, leadership is especially from those who live and serve in love. That’s not to say that the gift of pastor and the pastoral role is to be set aside. Not at all. But we can all aspire to what this passage is getting at where we each live and the responsibilities we have. And our part in the church in all of this.

For me Scripture is at the heart of all of this. All else flows out of that. After all, God’s word comes primarily out of the inspired holy writ, Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Ministry and all of life should be text driven, that is the text of the Bible. That is in part why next week, Holy Week, I intend at least at this point to have nothing more than Scripture texts from the Revised Common Lectionary on this blog. We do well to meditate and be silent more often, and no week more than Holy Week.

I look forward to that. May God help us all to together and individually be present and ponder Scripture, and God’s speaking and shaping of us from it. As we consider the sufferings, death and resurrection of our Lord.

In and through Jesus.

“Is it I, Lord?”

When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”

Matthew 26:20-22

I’ve been listening, and am nearly few through the Christianity Today podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. It’s a head scratcher, not always easy to listen to, keep listening to, or get through. But well done, and one begins to see the value of doing so, I think. For me, it’s a reminder of how having a stage can be dangerous and go to the head, so that the leader grasps for and holds on to power. I also think of the need for accountability for all, including those at the top, and the importance of proper submission, being willing to submit.

The podcast tells of a quite gifted (though I never was interested in any of his messages or books, and didn’t connect with any of that both because of the theology, as well as the tone in which it was presented) pastor, and truthfully I have a hard time using that word for this man, but one who got the movement of Mars Hill in Seattle started, really Mars Hill being his in his mind it seems, instead of the Lord’s. It is a head shaker, as you go through the account well documented of one who seems a narcissist through and through. At the same time it is remarkable how God did seem to use what was going on there to bless many. But even more quickly than its exponential rise, it came to a crashing end.

While I could hardly believe my ears both from the leader and other leaders talking about their time there, I found myself beginning to squirm a bit. I was wondering to myself, how much of that is in me. What I was hearing was perhaps helpful in the sense of making it clear what I and others don’t want to be. But it was also like a picture, which might become a mirror. Did I recognize myself, even a little bit of me in any of it? Maybe not much at all the way the leader was, but wanting to know.

So I found myself wondering, a good place to pray and ask the Lord, “Is it I?” And maybe that’s where the Lord wants me to be for a time, so that he can more and more sift out what is not like him, opposite really, opposed to him. Something helpful for myself, which I continue to reflect on from listening to the podcast. In and through Jesus.

submitting only to Christ’s rule, not to human rule(s)

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.

Colossians 2:20-23

There is a tradition among churches and denominations of certain rules or standards which are imposed on everyone. Sometimes this is not a set rule, but just something people have grown accustomed to, so that they practice it themselves, but don’t necessarily see it as binding on others. In other cases the church itself actually sets the rule, so that certain codes have to be upheld. Oftentimes these are dress codes, as well as rules about what one can and cannot do, like on the Sabbath Day (usually Sunday in Christian traditions) or on other days as well. Perhaps television is forbidden in some, or maybe certain media venues are forbidden. Or whatever.

And this can look quite holy. Certainly good intent can be behind it, but according to Paul it plays right into the enemy’s hand. Those who have trouble submitting, or who don’t quite meet such standards can be looked down on, division can set in, all matter of wrong can emerge: pride, judgmentalism, etc. Instead we have to acknowledge that we’ve died with Christ, that our identity is in him, and that we take our directions individually and together only from him.

That means we have to pay close attention to Christ’s teaching in the gospels, his example, and how that is followed through post-Pentecost and in the letters which follow. Christ is no longer with us in person as a human on earth, but he is very present with us by and in the Holy Spirit. So as church and from that as individuals we take our cues and directions only from Christ. Not from humans. Leaders who are attentive to this can help us in this way, but we all have to be committed only to this. This is where our spiritual life comes from informing and forming all of life. In and through Jesus.

it takes a community

I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.

Romans 15:14

While this is pulling a passage out of context, nevertheless the main point Paul made from this verse is true: We in Christ are in this together, and we all need each other. And each and everyone of us has our part to play. It’s a matter of learning to discern together what the Spirit of Christ is saying to us, and what the Spirit is doing. This is not a lone ranger faith, but one in which we are dependent on God and interdependent on each other.

Other places make it clear that God gives leaders to help the body grow and who are responsible for oversight (Ephesians 4; Hebrews 13). But though they have their special role, they too are blessed by the give and take in the body of Christ, in community.

This needs to be emphasized in a culture in which the individual largely takes priority over community. That is a flaw. Each of us are valued as individuals in community. Yes, God values each of us individually, but we find our true life, even ourselves in community, along with others. We fit together as one, learning to settle into our God-given place, giving and receiving. In and through Jesus.

leaders must lead by being examples

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

1 Peter 5:1-4

Yesterday I suggested that given certain guidelines, it’s possible for a fallen pastor to be restored. This scripture from Peter is another basic essential passage for pastors and leaders in the church. Here money and power are both alluded to. The passage is rich, and every part important, but what stands out to me is the necessity that the pastor and leaders of the church must be examples in how they live. Of course their calling involves oversight and service, even as a shepherd takes care of their flock.

Paul said that others should follow him as he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Being an example is key, along with the service in God’s gifting of the leadership for the church. A great and wonderful calling. To help others realize the “high calling” that is also their’s (Philippians 3), in and through Jesus.