Friday, March 31, 2006

Truett on Preaching

As we enter the weekend and no doubt many of you will be preaching, here is a word from George Truett. George W. Truett was one of the highly esteemed preachers in the SBC and beyond. He served as pastor of FBC Dallas from 1897 to his death in 1944. Brian Denker recently found this quote from Truett in a convention sermon. It is a fun quote as well as one which highlights the importance of true preaching.

“Verily Paul “magnified the ministry.” The most important work in all the world is the work of the pulpit. There can no substitute for the spoken word from a living pulpit. It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Whatever the progress and triumphs of the schools of civilization, with all its multiform organizations, can never be any displacement of the work of the prophets of God. The halcyon days of Christianity have always been the days of the right kind of preaching. All the decadent days of Christianity have been the days of the wrong kind of preaching. The Christian pulpit cannot be what it ought to be, and what God designs, if it be without the right kind of preaching. The Christian pulpit cannot be what it ought to be, and what God designs, if it be without the right kind of men in the pulpit. The pulpit is not the place for men of anemic spirit; they had better stay out of it. It is not the place for prigs and fops and dandies and for men seeking selfish ends. The most robust and virile and masculine and heroic business that earth ever saw is the right kind of preaching.”
Convention Sermon: "What We Preach"
Text: 2 Corinthians 4:5
Source: Truett, George W. Sermons from Paul. Vol. 2, Truett Memorial Series, ed. by Powhatan W. James. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1947), 13-31

Doing Poetry and Dealing with Pride

One of the fun parts of blogging is encountering other people. Recently Derek Brown visited this site and I followed the link back to his blog. There I found a poem he has written entitled, “Unless the Heart is Broken.” If you have read this blog much, you know that I encourage the use of poetry in various ways. I really enjoyed Derek’s poem as it dealt with the struggle of pride and our need for humility.

Here are the opening lines:
Unless the heart is broken
True love to Christ cannot flow
Only a heart that is broken
Can the beauty of Christ know

Check it out.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Plagiarism again, response to Sheep's Crib

J. A. Gillmartin has posted his response to my arguments on pastoral plagiarism (post 1, post 2) at his blog The Sheep’s Crib. I think my argument can be best made by encouraging you to read his post and compare it with what has been said here, not only in my posts but in the wealth of good comments and the items I linked from Justin Taylor.

I do not think Gillmartin’s post adds significantly to the discussion, so I will not give a detailed response. Here are just two points.

1. He argues that stewardship would suggest we use all available good resources. I wholeheartedly agree. He claims I disallow the use of bound, printed sermons. I never said that. In fact I would encourage the use of such, at least from good expositors. I said clearly that we ought to learn from others, but then preach our own sermons.

2. He accuses my argument of being ‘neo-pharisaic’ (his term). He is concerned about adding non-biblical requirements to believers, here particularly pastors. But, is the requirement of laboring in the Word an unbiblical, human addition? I agree that adding unbiblical requirements is damaging and dangerous (legalism). I also believe that negating biblical commands, telling people they need not do what the Bible says, is also damaging (antinomianism). In 1 Tim 5:17 the elders who rule well are defined as those who labor (the word here suggests toil) in preaching and teaching (see the commentaries for supporting argument that ruling well is defined as laboring in this way). Timothy is exhorted to ‘devote’ himself to teaching (1 Tim 4:13) and he is to watch closely his teaching (4:16). Indeed his carefulness concerning his own life and his teaching will lead to the salvation of others (4:16). Search the Scriptures. The requirement for pastors to be men steeped in the Word as a result of real labor to understand them is a thoroughly biblical one. Leaning too much on the work of others, skipping the hard work ourselves, avoids this biblical mandate and will stunt the growth of pastors and the churches they lead. To encourage men to avoid this mandate is serious error.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Oftentimes the best way to expose error is the use of good satire. For this reason I appreciate some of the Christian satire sites on the web. This older story from LarkNews, entitled, “Church growth conference helps pastors feel like miserable failures”, is a good example. It takes a swipe at the performance orientation of so much of church thinking today- the kind of thinking that is connected with the ongoing conversation on plagiarism.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Pastoral Plagiarism, Part 2

The previous post has caused some stir, and I am glad because I think this is an important issue to consider. I am also glad because no doubt many will read the Sjogren article as it is on Rick Warren’s site, and I hope there will be people ready to hold accountable those who fall under the sway of Sjogren’s argument.

To further the discussion let me point out also a post from about a year ago by Justin Taylor and an article by Justin Taylor and Matt Perman. Many of you will no doubt already be aware of these documents but I did not know of them until Justin posted about them this week.

Finally, one reader commented on the previous post, linking two of his own posts arguing a different view on the subject. Here are J. A. Gillmartin’s arguments- post 1, post 2. I encourage you to read his arguments and join the conversation. Here is my response to him

J. A. Gillmartin,
Thanks for interacting. I did read your two posts. I encourage other readers here to do the same and join the conversation. I do think we disagree, and I would want to challenge you to consider your logic.
You seem to take issue with accusations that people are indeed preaching sermons verbatim. That is directly encouraged in the article I referenced. To say that simply preaching the results of another man’s efforts is the same as using reference tools (you mentioned lexicons I think) is incorrect. Most people understand and expect that for preaching (as well as any other research, speeches or papers) one will consult the work of others, preferably those who have demonstrated wisdom and godliness. However, learning from others is significantly different from parroting them. The goal is to study the Word with helps from others and absorb the truths yourself. Then when you proclaim it, you are no doubt influenced by others, but what comes out has been assimilated into your own mind and soul. You are not seeking to emulate another’s passion for a certain point but are speaking from your own affected soul. (The comment in the previous post which quotes Lloyd-Jones is especially good here).

As I prepare to preach from 1 Peter this week I have first wrestled with the Greek text on my own without consulting other expositions. After making some preliminary observations I plan to read commentaries by Schreiner, Grudem and Marshall (among others) and to listen to a sermon by Don Carson. I want to learn from these men who are wiser than me. But I will not preach their message. I will then prepare a message for my people, applying the text as best as I understand it to their lives as best as I understand them. And, no, I am not full time at my church so I know about the crunch of time.

You also take the example of third world pastors to prove a point but the example does not hold. Certainly there are people in especially difficult situations. I would not encourage them to simply parrot sermons either (and I don’t think you do), but the issue at hand in these articles is not harried 3rd world pastors. These are American pastors. Let’s not confuse the issues. It is true that the pastorate is demanding. But herein lies much of the problem. In the American church we have confused ourselves on what the pastor is to do. We need to relieve pastors of some things they think they must do (not least the drive to ‘keep up’ with the latest church growth theories, and the need to be ‘creative’), and encourage them to devote themselves to the apostolic priorities of the Word and prayer (Acts 6). Note what Paul exhorts Timothy to pay special attention to. In 1 Timothy 4:6-16 the focus is on Timothy’s teaching and his lifestyle (esp. v16). In 4:13 Paul esp. highlights the public reading and exposition of Scripture. In 2 Timothy the whole focus is perseverance in right doctrine and holy living. 4:1-8 is the climax of the entire letter. 4:1 sets up a very solemn charge. The content of this solemn charge (v2) is a call to preach.

I agree wholeheartedly that pastors tend to be run ragged. The answer is not to skimp on time in the Word. The answer is to cut back on institutional machinery that is not part of the calling so that we might devote ourselves to the task God has given. I previously posted on this approach, in the form of an exhortation to churches on how to help their pastors fulfill their tasks. I would be interested in your thoughts on this.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Pastoral Plagiarism

A few days ago a pastor friend sent me a link for an article entitled “Don’t be original – be effective!”, by Steve Sjogren, a Cincinnati pastor and author. The article had been posted at Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox at Pastors.Com. After reading the article I simply sat there dumbfounded, stupefied. I felt like imitating Ezra when he said, “When I heard about this matter I tore my garment and my robe, and pulled some of the hair from my head and my beard, and sat down appalled” (Ezra 9:3).

What produced this reaction? This article is a brazen argument for pastors to quit trying to produce their own sermons and instead simply preach the material of others- even word for word! Sjogren argues that laboring to prepare a sermon yourself is silly, stating: “stop all of this nonsense of spending 25 or 30 hours a week preparing to speak on the weekend.” As a positive example he cites Paul Cho, pastor of supposedly the largest church in the world in Korea, who said:
"Honestly, I have never given an original message in all my years of ministry here at Yoido Church. Each week, I preach word-for-word messages from either Billy Graham or W.A. Criswell from Dallas First Baptist Church. I can't afford to not have a home run each weekend when we gather. I don't trust my own ability to give completely original messages."

Sjogren argues that the desire to prepare your own sermons is the result of pride that we need to get over. In fact he ridicules those who think they are preparing good sermons themselves by asking them if they are preaching such good sermons why are their churches still small. The obvious point is to simply copy the sermons of big church pastors- they’re simply plagiarizing others, Sjogren says.

Frankly, this is utterly disgusting. I remember hearing Adrian Rogers about 15 years ago at a Pastor’s Conference firmly condemn this practice. Sure, it is fitting to listen and learn from people. But skipping the hard work of study and preaching other men’s labors is abominable. Then to label the effort to prepare for oneself as the result of pride!! Oh, how blind! I suppose there is no arrogance in saying, “My service is so important I can’t afford not to hit a homerun each weekend”! How man-centered, performance driven is that? This is the real problem. The assumption behind the writing is that the big issue is a great performance in the preaching. So, if you can’t give a great performance borrow someone else’s. But, this is not what our people need. Performance is available in abundance. The word of God is not so available.

This all reminds me of a favorite passage of mine, Jeremiah 23. Here God sternly rebukes prophets who claim to come to God’s people with God’s message, but in actuality come with their own imaginations (v16). God contrasts their vain talk to the power of His Word (vv 25-32). God even says:

Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” declares the LORD, “who steal My words from each other.” (v30)

Even with differences in context, I think this is clear. Our people do not need a performance. They need to gather with their brothers and sisters to hear their own overseer, who knows and loves them, and to hear the overflow of his heart resulting from his own wrestling with the text that week. We are not to be talking heads with fine points, but messengers who, having set in the counsel of God, can come with His Word. Again God speaks through Jeremiah:

"But who has stood in the council of the LORD, That he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? …"I did not send these prophets, But they ran. I did not speak to them, But they prophesied. "But if they had stood in My council, Then they would have announced My words to My people, And would have turned them back from their evil way And from the evil of their deeds. (v18, 21-22)

Let us give up on the sham allure of performance, stop up our ears from the siren calls even from fellow pastors, resist the enticements of Vanity Fair and simply give God’s Word to God’s people. Then we will have the pleasure of seeing people turned from their sin (one of the true goals rather than crowd gathering).

So, I encourage you to read Sjogren’s article and be appalled. Then renew yourself once more to the God-ordained task at hand. For in the end we will give account to the One who said:

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares the LORD. (Jer 23:1)

Monday, March 20, 2006

“Grace, All-conquering and charming”

Jesse Mercer could be described as the leading Baptist in Georgia in the first half of the 19th century. He served as pastor, editor of the state paper, and denominational statesman championing the formation of schools and a mission board. Anthony Chute has written a fine overview of Mercer’s work in A Piety Above the Common Standard. You can see my review of Chute’s book here.

My point here, however, is to highlight his work in poetry, writing and compiling hymns. Mercer produced a popular compilation of American and British hymns entitled The Cluster of Spiritual Songs, Divine Hymns, and Sacred Poems. The following hymn is #5 in the cluster, and I have recorded (from when I borrowed a copy of the Cluster) that Mercer was the author of this hymn.

“Grace, All-conquering and charming”

Legion was my name by nature,
Satan rag’d within my breast;
Never misery was greater,
Never sinner more posses’d.
Mischievous to all around me,
To myself the greatest foe;
Thus I was, when Jesus found me,
Filled with madness, sin, and woe.

Yet in this forlorn condition,
When he came to set me free,
I reply’d to my Physician,
“What have I to do with thee?”
But he would not be prevented,
Rescued me against my will;
Had he staid till I’d consented,
I had been a captive still.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

On Receiving a New Pastor

I recently had posted on my personal website a document entitled, “On Receiving a New Pastor.” It is essentially my notes for an address I have given to churches who are awaiting the arrival of a new pastor. There is not enough thinking about what a pastor is to do and as a result there is not enough thinking about how a church should receive one.

Here is the opening section:

Calling and receiving a new pastor is a significant occasion in the life of a church and therefore deserves some reflection. As a church you should, and I believe you do, want to receive your new pastor well. We would do well then to contemplate how you can receive him and his family well.
The primary issue in receiving a new pastor well is to understand the nature of the pastorate. This is absolutely essential. You must have a clear idea of what you have called this man to do. You have called him to be your pastor, but what does this mean? If you are not clear on this you might end up like someone who is:
- upset with a quarterback who has thrown dozens of touchdown passes but has yet to hit a single home run.
- upset with a baseball coach who has won lots of games but has yet to win a Super Bowl.
- upset with a math teacher who did not explain nouns and pronouns well.
- pleased with a banker because he is so pleasant even though he cannot find your savings!

If you are going to receive a new pastor well, if you are going to be a blessing to him, then you must have a clear, biblical view of what he is supposed to do. Otherwise you might end up giving him a hard time about things which are not his responsibilities or praising him for the wrong things.
(Read more)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

On Pastor Resumes

In response to my posting of a particularly bad resume cover letter, Ryan asked how one should properly write a resume as a pastor. This is a fine question and touches on the broader topic of how we find, recruit and promote pastors today- a broader question which would be good to speak to in the future.

On this question, let me first say that we ought not totally ignore the pattern of men rising up from within the church itself. This is rare today and some call it impracticable, but it certainly happened in Scripture and has advantages. In a situation with multiple pastors this is even more possible. However, the question concerns our typical situation where a church is seeking an individual from outside of itself. So, let me turn to that.

Churches typically call their associational office, perhaps the state office and some seminaries to collect all the resumes they have. This results in an avalanche of resumes (of which yours would be one). I am regularly urging churches not to take this route- at least not initially. I urge them to first call pastors and leaders they respect and ask for recommendations. If they can do this then they are starting in a much better position already having some basis for confidence in the people they will talk to. Since this is my advice to churches, my advice to those seeking to pastor is to first let people who know you that you are looking to serve in this way. You will be better served by established people recommending you than by simply having a piece of paper in the avalanche.

In the end, though, it is good to have a basic resume for someone to use in recommending you. The resume need not try to ‘sell you.’ All it needs to do is give a basic portrait. As I have worked with lay leaders seeking a pastor, they have almost always been turned off by resumes which seek to highlight a man’s accomplishments. Your references can tell them good things about you- “Let another praise you and not your own mouth” (Prov 27:2). Just give them the facts.

Here is a basic outline of what I would recommend you include:

Name, Date of birth, contact info
Marital status
Ordained or not, when

Education (school, degree, date)
Experience- church and other (date)

References- some should be connected with places you have worked. You can indicate this in parentheses after the name, e.g. Joe Shmoe (supervisor at Fed Ex)

Then include these items. Many will not expect these but these are far more valuable than listing so-called accomplishments:
Personal Testimony- Tell them how you came to Christ

Philosophy of ministry- what do you understand the pastorate to be, what would be your priorities and how would you go about it (for a brief example see here)

Doctrinal Statement- Sadly I have rarely been asked doctrinal questions in interviews. It is incumbent though upon the candidate to give his basic doctrinal orientation. You need not and indeed cannot go into everything, but they need the basics. I think it is best to use a historical document so as to identify yourself with a tradition. For Southern Baptists, you could use the Baptist Faith and Message or the Abstracts of Principles, noting where you would modify anything.

This approach takes seriously the fact that paper can only tell you so much by majoring on what can be communicated in this way- ideas. If more search committees were able to consider ideas first and then pursue contact in order to learn about the person, we might be better served.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Pastoral Care, Gregory the Great

Today in my pastoral ministry course we discussed Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Care, written in AD 590. I first encountered this book after reading Eugene Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastorin which he referred to his views on pastoral ministry being shaped by Gregory among others. I did not know what book by Gregory he was referring to, so I went searching and found this book. This book became a key document shaping the views of pastoral ministry early in the history of the church. For that reason alone it is worth reading. Gregory states clearly that his purpose is to detail the solemn gravity of the task and to discuss how it should be done.

Reading this book is a bit different from reading a more recent book. As I told the class, “Don’t talk to me about it being harder or less fun to read, etc. We are not here to toy with trivialities but to wrestle with the weightiness of the oversight of souls. Those seeking nourishment are not worried with the thickness or toughness of the husk, but only with whether or not once the husk is cracked nourishment can be found.” And nourishment is available here.

The class detailed numerous strengths of the book. Gregory consistently hammers the absolute necessity of humility, the gravity of the task, the need to care for souls, and the work of the pastor as helping people to live Christ-like lives. The bulk of the book is taken up with examining various conditions and situations of life and how we can encourage and exhort people in such settings. This is refreshingly different from typical approaches today which see pastors as managers of programs (“running a church”) rather than shepherds of souls.

There are weaknesses as well. One can see the encroachment of a more works based theology already at work. Nonetheless, if we are (as we should be) mature enough to sift through wheat and chaff this is a useful read.

I will plan to post some more quotes in the future, but for now let this one suffice. Here Gregory is speaking of the importance of proper preparation for the work of overseeing souls.

“No one ventured to teach any art unless he has learned it after deep thought. With what rashness, then, would the pastoral office be undertaken by the unfit, seeing that the government of souls is the art of arts! For who does not realize that the wounds of the mind are more hidden than the internal wounds of the body? Yet, although those who have no knowledge of the powers of drugs shrink from giving themselves out as physicians of the flesh, people who are utterly ignorant of spiritual precepts are often not afraid of professing themselves to be physicians of the heart, and though, by divine ordinance, those now in the highest positions are disposed to show a regard for religion, some there are who aspire to glory and esteem by an outward show of authority within the holy Church.” (p.22)

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Cover letter to a Pastor's Resume

Since I recently posted a biblical want ad for a pastor, here is an excerpt from a cover letter sent by a pastor to the search committee of a church. This letter came to a church I was assisting in their search for a pastor. I was astounded by the arrogance and copied by hand this portion to keep as an example. Here it is:

Dear Search Committee:

As a pastor with many years experience, I think I may be well qualified for the position of senior pastor that was brought to my attention via the internet outlining your church and need. You will see from the enclosed resume that I have pastored a number of churches. In each case I was able to raise the spiritual standards of the church, increase its effectiveness as a positive witness for Christ (in one case, my current pastorate, doubling Sunday school attendance), and attracting new members in significant numbers.

Having met and exceeded my goals in my present position, I want to challenge myself with a more demanding position. __________ Baptist Church appeals to me very much as this type of challenge. [His only knowledge at this point is a paper add]
I would like to discuss this position with you and will be happy to come in for an interview at your convenience.

Is humility a characteristic desirable in pastors? In fairness it is not often encouraged, especially in resume writing. Yet, the attributing of the numerical growth to himself does seem grossly apparent. There is the typical assumption that increase in numbers means health. The worst part to me is the idea that since his goals have been met and exceeded he is ready to move on. God seems to be significantly absent. And, what does it suggest about pastoral ministry if the goals can be met and then you move on? Isn’t the primary goal the oversight of souls? Can this be ‘met’, completed, this side of eternity? Of course the suggestion to the receiving church that they will be a good ‘challenge’ is an interesting use of condescension in order to woo a church!

May the Lord deliver us from this sort of attitude and deliver His church from would be pastors with this attitude.

Bustrum reflecting on Maxwell

Mark Bustrum, author of the want ad in the previous post, has posted a useful reflection on Barry Maxwell’s posts on pastoral ministry which I recommended previously. Profitable thoughts.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Biblical Want Ad for Pastors

After discussing Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 ( a passage rich in instruction for pastoral ministry), one of my students produced this want ad:

WANTED: Pastor/Shepherd

Job Description: Teach and Preach

Search Committee Member: Holy Spirit

WARNING: Do not apply if afraid of… suffering, tears, persecution, hatred, misunderstanding, hard work, low pay, humility, rejection, affliction, exhaustion, mental anguish, holy kisses, or worn knees

Please apply if you… preach repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Long term ministry

One idea that needs to be reclaimed in pastoral ministry is the benefit of being rooted in one location for a long time. As we resist the ideas of ‘climbing the ladder’ and embrace truly biblical values for pastoral ministry, surely this becomes a goal for us- to continue with a specific people shepherding them over generations.

I just came across an essay by Geoff Thomas which addresses this. It is entitled, “Find a Place to Settle,” and is contained in Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, ed. Tom Ascol (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2004). In this quote below Thomas provides an extended quote from Dr. James Stalker on his experience watching a man who had had such an extended ministry.

“It was my happiness, when I was ordained, to be settled next… to an aged and saintly minister. He was a man of competent scholarship, and had the reputation of having been in early life a powerful and popular preacher. But it was not to these gifts that he owed his unique influence. He moved through the town, with his white hair and somewhat staid and dignified demeanour, as a hallowing presence. His very passing in the street was a kind of benediction, and the people, as they looked after him, spoke of him to each other with affectionate veneration, children were proud when he laid his hand on their heads, and they treasured the kindly words which he spoke to them. At funerals and other seasons of domestic solemnity his presence was sought by people of all denominations. We who labored along with him in the ministry felt that his mere existence in the community was an irresistible demonstration of Christianity and a tower of strength to every good cause. Yet he had not gained this position of influence by brilliant talents or great achievements or the pushing of ambition; for he was singularly modest, and would have been the last to credit himself with half the good he did. The whole mystery lay in this, that he had lived in the town for forty years a blameless life, and was known, by everybody to be a godly and prayerful man. He was good enough to honour me with his friendship; and his example wrote deeply upon my mind these two convictions—that it may sometimes be of immense advantage to spend a whole life time in a single pastorate, and that the prime qualification for the ministry is godliness.”

The man to whom he was referring was a certain James Black of Dunnikier and little more than that paragraph of Stalker’s is known of the man or even the place where he labored. Dunnikier is too small to appear in any British atlas. Black was one that army of holy men who have served the Lord in obscure communities modestly and humbly for no reward other than the immense privilege of having so great a Master as our Christ. (pp. 363-364)
May we see more of this sort of ministry. This is what I was referring to previously when I referred to simply walking among our people in holiness ministering the word of God in word and deed.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Chalmers plea for passionate ministry

As we head into the weekend, here is a quote from Thomas Chalmers from my own “Defining Quotes” file. This statement comes from Dr. Chalmers’ sermon on the day of the funeral of Princess Charlotte of Wales:
‘Is there no room for men of zeal and of strength, who might go forth among these wanderers, and compel them to come in; for men of holy fervour, who might set the terrors of hell and the free offer of salvation before them; for men of affection, who might visit the sick, the dying, and the afflicted; for men who fastened their most intense aim on the great object of preparing sinners for eternity …?’
-quoted by Thomas Bridgman in The Nature and Necessity of a Revival of Vital Godliness: A Sermon (Montrose: Smith & Hill, 1820), p. 14, footnote.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Importance of Church Membership

Let me follow up the last quote from Ryken’s The Communion of Saints with another. In this section the author is arguing for the importance of belonging to a specific local church. This is a point often missed by people today. This quote does not say everything on the issue, but it does speak to the issue very well.

“The same might be said of regular attenders who never join the church. They lack an unbreakable commitment to the church and its ministry. Nonmembers, however active they may be in the life of the church, are outside the covenant relationship with the body of Christ that God requires. They reserve the right to pick and choose their doctrine, lifestyle, and ministry. In effect they become their own elders denying the authority of the church to carry out its mandate of gathering and perfecting the saints. To put this in theological terms, they separate union with Christ, the head of the church, from union with his body. As a result, they confuse themselves and others - outside as well as inside the church - about what it means to be a Christian. This is a costly mistake to make because membership has its privileges. Martyn Lloyd-Jones went so far as to describe church membership as ‘the biggest honour which can come a man’s way in this world.’ There is no union with Christ apart from the communion of the saints. Nor can the saints have true communion without belonging to one another by belonging to Christ in his church. The communion of the saints is for members only.” (p. 55)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Necessity of the Church

As a part of a Wednesday night class at my church, I am reading The Communion of Saints: Living in Fellowship with the People of God, ed. Philip Ryken. The book has some really good points. One can be seen in the quote below which states well that the church is not simply a ‘good idea’ but the communion of saints within a specific congregation is a necessary part of Christian living.

“We are not “united in love,” as Luther put it, simply because once we are saved it then makes sense to engage in communal duties. The Christian church is not merely a convenient way for individuals to practice their social piety. Rather, we are united in love because we are united to Christ by the Holy Spirit through faith. The Puritan Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) put it like this: ‘As we are knit to Christ by faith, so we must be knit to the communion of saints by love.’ There is no other kind of new life but common life, because fellowship with Christ in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory is communal. We enjoy his graces by sharing our gifts. We participate in his sufferings by carrying one another’s burdens.” (p. 60)