Wednesday, May 25, 2011

1Timothy 3:6 and Non-seminary Trained Lay Elders

A couple thoughts of mine on the topic of lay-elders. Just sort of hammering out some thoughts here, as it's a topic I'm still digging through Scripture to resolve. I grew up Presbyterian, where the church organization would feature a senior "teaching elder" accompanied by a number of lay elders, who were generally NOT seminary-educated but were simply full-time doctors or plumbers or whatever and who served as elders once a week, basically. Over the last few years I've really started to question this practice, because it seems to me that this invariably leads to a system of unqualified men serving in leadership roles in the church, and I wonder if this goes against a part of what the Apostle Paul described to Timothy as requirements for what the elder role should be, namely this particular passage:

1 Timothy 3:6: "He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil."

That term "new convert" in the ESV is νεόφυτος (neophytos) in Greek, meaning one who has recently become a Christian, but I think that the KJV rendering of this term is interesting, and telling, in that it uses "novice." And while I'm sure there are lay officers installed that have a solid Christian walk (and perhaps some Seminary education) it makes me wonder what the danger is in trusting the leadership of the church to men who haven't really been thoroughly tested in the faith through the rigors of seminary dedication (particularly in the Presbyterian situation where, as I recall, lay elders would teach/lead worship). I don't believe that seminary is mandatory, but it definitely plays a big part in training up men who have solid, comprehensive understanding of not just exegeting scripture, but church history, systematic theology, hermeneutics, counseling, teaching, etc.

Oak Ridge Reformed Baptist, where is attend now, is led by a plurality of two extremely-gifted teaching elders, one fully-seminary educated and the other very close. This model of multiple teaching elders seems like the right direction for a number of reasons: first, because, as I understand it, the term for overseer, ἐπισκοπή, is generally used in the plural in Paul's epistle to Timothy. I think there are other spots in the New Testament that talk about multiple men leading specific churches. But the second reason is that it appears that there's something of a blessing in relaxing the practice of only one guy being the "ringleader" of the church, and instead dividing up the teaching and leadership responsibilities between two or more men. Speaking as laity, I can see how that should mean less burden exclusively placed on one man, but rather one or more men work together, support each other, share teaching responsibilities together, handle issues of the church together, etc. Having become part of a model of elder plurality, I can't see ever going back to the singular model again.

That being said, I'm reminded of the last church we attended. Good ministry with solid teaching by two very talented seminary-educated men. But one of the things they did, which I found a little questionable, was the planting of an off-shoot church work led by two men who were NOT seminary educated, and who were instead privately educated by the church leadership prior to being installed at the church plant. I had some trouble with this, in that I think this goes against I Tim. 3:6 cited above: again, this seems to speak of installing "novices" in place of men who have undergone 2-3 years of dedicated, focused seminary training. The heavy-duty reading, the rigorous exegesis, the Hebrew/Greek/Aramaic, the living-breathing God's word. A man who dedicates those years of time to seminary reminds me of how the prophet Elijah had to spend 3 years living in the wilderness, waiting and trusting in God, or how the Apostle Paul spent 14 years in the desert drawing close to God before his ministry work began. There's something there about the importance of dedication, training, preparedness, that you don't pick up studying theology in someone's home. I could be wrong, but I'll say this much: when Pastor Justin comes back to visit from Southern to teach, it's such a blessing to be able to glean from the knowledge and understanding that God is cultivating in him during his seminary studies. Seminary education is so foundation to what the elder role needs to be.

Paul's warning in I Tim. 3:6 speaks of someone who is newly-planted that, in their immaturaity, risks being puffed up with pride. But more than that, I would be concerned that an inexperienced elder is just not tested, and would not be prepared for every situation to be expected as an elder, be it experience in teaching adn answering difficult questions, being able to provide deep, sound expositions of text, or even the ability to faithfully and Biblically offer council. I just can't see that being cultivated out of a dedicated seminary experience.

It's like the situation of needing heart surgery: I could go with the man who's studied the body in school for several years and has gained extensive, valuable experience, or the nurse who has watched, been involved, and participated in, heart surgery, but never went to school for it. Or even the intern - with some school but not the full training and degree. If I needed the surgery, I would INSIST on the doctor, not the nurse or the intern.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Psalm 127:5 in the ESV and "What He Must Be..."

I've been reading "What He Must Be... If He Wants to Marry My Daughter" by Voddie Baucham, and really enjoying this title. So much of this instruction is directly relevant to my own situation of not only preparing and direction my own children spiritually for their future spouses, but also in terms of cultivating an understanding of what to be looking for in future sutors.  I will likely have more to post about this book later.

We attended Voddie's church in Houston a couple years ago, and other than a few minor doctrinal issues I think he's a fantastic teacher, and what he covers in this book will definitely be considered controversial by many, both in and out of the church.  Not many people like to hear someone defend and encourage the principle that a potential son-in-law, other than just being an upright individual with a genuine Christian faith, must also be a man who loves and craves having children.  In a day and age where some evangelicals like to dismiss the creation mandate, I love reading from the occasional pastor who defends (and encourages) believers to have large families.

Especially interesting to me was Voddie's elaboration on Psalm 127:5 (the "quiver" passage) from the ESV.  As he states in the book (pg. 123-124) there are many translations of the Bible that render this passage, speaking of the blessing of children, as "blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them".  But the ESV picks up a missed nuance, "Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!"  Voddie points out the crucial distinction: "this rendering paints the picture of a man who desires children, who seeks children.  What a scathing rebuke to those in our culture who do not value children."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dr. Michael Barrett on the King James Version

A fair, although imperfect, defense of the AV. I find the King James often difficult to read due to the changes in the English language, and the effort Dr. Barrett describes to pick up the "specialized jargon" for the AV isn't really worth it - I'd rather expend those energies into learning the Greek. The message isn't without some not so subtle biases (newer texts being "dumbed down" you know, etc) but at least Dr. Barrett doesn't seem to go into any of the silly "double-inspiration" goofiness, but there are shades of this with some of his remarks about inspiration and preservation. The only Greek text then for the AV translators was apparently the best per Garrett, but seems as if I've heard different things from James White on the topic of KJVO. In any case, listen and hear for yourself.

I'm frankly not sure how I started to listening to this - somehow I stumbled across this while browsing some messages on Harold Campings 5/21 doomsday silliness. Saturday works for me for judgment day, but if not it will be a good day for grilling out.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Next Story - Tim Challies - Genesis 1:28 and Sloppy Exegesis

What follows is my brief review of Tim Challies "The Next Story"

Tim Challies isn't offering anything ground-breaking here: the basic requisition I took was that as a Christian should use discernment with the world of rapidly-changing technology.  Sure. 
But some better exegesis of Genesis in the first chapter would have made a much better lasting impression. In the first chapter, Tim Challies speaks about the creation mandate from Genesis 1 and refers to this as " WAS supposed to be fruitful and multiply." "Was"? Maybe I missed the part in Scripture where this divine injunction was rescinded. He then goes on to make the somewhat ridiculous statement that this mandate has less to do with having children and more to do with "developing the social world by building families, churches, cities, etc." The creation mandate is, at its core, about FILLING the earth, not just Challie's notions about utilizing technology for practical purposes and promoting human flourishing.  That sort of chucked me off early into the reading.

I think there's a bigger issue at state here, overlooked by Challies, and that's that evangelicals today have bought into the secular ideas of being "responsible", limiting their children to 2-3, so that more personal time and resources can be devoted to the latest Sheepware that the Apple store rolls out, so that then technology becomes THE big issue to be concerned about.  But far more important than irrelevant shifting technological patterns would be shifting DEMOGRAPHIC patterns. The Muslims of Europe understand this and are continuing to produce sizable families... are Evangelicals even aware of this or are they too caught up in updating their Facebook profile or being concerned about the irrelevent use and misuse of technology, all of which would be rendered completely useless if and when the power is ever knocked out.

Questions for a Prospective Pastor

A friend sent me a link to these prospective Questions for a Prospective Pastor and I wanted to include them here as a reference.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

1 Corinthians 7:13–14, Piper and Infant Baptism

John Piper has an interesting and brief post here addressing I Cor. 7:13-14, one of those "proof" texts used by paedobaptists. I like Piper's response - I just wish that he didn't teach that paedobaptist believers should be allowed to become members of Baptist churches without being baptised as believers (in other words, baptized correctly.)

Money Matters and Christian Giving - Pastor Michael Phillips

Pastor Michael Phillips, in this series on money, offers and sound and practical overview of how the believer should approach money matters. This message linked below is from the section of this series on giving, and his teaching on this matter is excellent.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Matthew 24:36, Harold Camping, Judgment Day and Jeremiah 29:11

Well, I just noticed a billboard the other day more or less stating that Harold Camping has again figured out the date for Judgment Day, apparently on May 21st.  I doubt it, but it will still be interesting to see what happens, particularly because I'm still between jobs right now, and that would solve the problem of getting the mortgage paid this month.

I write most of these blogs as a storage place for theological notes and musing - mostly for myself - but on the off-chance someone is visiting and reading this, I would greatly appreciate prayer for my recent interviews.  There is that uncertainty to the future (unless you're Harold Camping) in which you don't know what God's plans are, but instead of silly predictions, I take comfort in passages such as Jeremiah 29:11, that gives the assuranc:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Minister's Prayer Life - Paul Washer

I've listened to a number of Paul Washer's mp3 messages before and find him to be a fascinating and convicting teacher. Granted, there is an exuberance that can sometimes distract, but the passion with which Washer teaches on concepts such as the importance and vibrancy of prayer are deeply convicting. This message especially is one worth checking out.

This was one part that really struck me: "Today there is not battle fought in this pulpit. It was fought this morning at five o'clock. It was fought in prayer. It is won in prayer. The thing is done in prayer."

Pastor Washer will make note in this message of his lack of seminary/expository experience while building on the importance of prayer - not as a rote activity but a solid component of the life of every believer. "You know, I hear it very common today even among ministers. They say, 'Well, I don’t really have a specific time of prayer. I just kind of pray all the time.'  I do not believe that because I have learned that practicing the presence of God and practicing prayer, it is a learned discipline. It comes from tarrying with your God. What else would you want to do? What other greater privilege has been granted you than to tarry with God, to worship him, to cry out to him, to commune with him?"