A Look at The Pericope Adulterae from John 7:53-8:11


I was quite troubled the first time I heard someone say, years ago at this point, that the story about Jesus and the woman caught in adultery was not inspired Scripture, and thus didn’t belong in the Bible. Of course it troubled me, but I did nothing about trying to understand why this story was in my Bible (though in brackets). Back in March 2011 Piper did a sermon on this passage (Neither Do I Condemn You), usually called in scholastic writings, The Pericope Adulterae, where the explanation started to make a little more sense.

A few weeks ago I finally got around to doing my own research on the topic, and my basic overall conclusion is listed below. To see the entire argument if you so desire just go to my Writing Section or click here for the PDF called The Pericope Adulterae: An Exegetical Examination of the Canonicity and Meaning of John 7:53-8:11.

Even though this account of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery most likely did not appear in the original writings of John’s Gospel, it does not affect any significant doctrine within the whole of Scripture.  Some teachers may wish to exclude this section from reproof because of these issues, but whether a modern day pastor or teacher chooses to include or exclude the pericope, the wisdom of Jesus can be found in other areas of Scripture to support the statements within this passage.  As such, many applications of forgiveness, judgmental attitudes, and repentance can be gleened from the pericope, much in the same way the Didascalia Apostolorum used the story to “bring repentant sinners back into the congregation.”[1]

Issues such as judgmentalism and sin on a large scale can destroy communities and nations, and on a smaller scale, can destroy “marriages, families, and churches.”[2]  We have almost countless opportunities in our post-modern culture to extend grace, especially when it comes to our marriages, families, and our churches.  How many congregations have split because of a spirit among members who are quick to judge, and slow to extend grace?  The pericope adulterae, a floating, somewhat “homeless passage,” which probably needs some grace extended to it as well, provides an additional opportunity to reiterate teachings found in many other parts of the New Testament.[3]  It may not be an original part of John’s gospel, but this story “points us to the message of the whole New Testament.”[4]  Ultimately the pericopepoints us to Jesus, who not only gives us grace beyond what we deserve, grace is given by the only One who, without sin, can actually cast the first stone, but does not.

[1] Michael W. Holmes, ed., The Apostolic Fathers in English, 3rd Edition, ed. Michael W. Holmes (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic), 304-305. This edition was translated and edited by Michael W. Holmes after the earlier version by J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer.

[2] Roberta C. Bondi, To Pray and to Love: Conversations on Prayer with the Early Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1991), 109.

[3] Frances Taylor Gench, “John 7:53-8:11,” Interpretation (Academic OneFile) 63, no. 4 (October 2009): 400.

[4] John Piper, “Neither Do I Condemn You”.

How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth Book Review Critique

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth Book Review Critique

This review below is a summary of the full review (you can read the full review here or go to my Writing Section under “reviews”) for a book called How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. This particular book has been on my list to read for quite some time now, but I was finally forced to read it for my current Hermeneutics class. If you don’t want to read the book all the way through cover to cover, there is some good reference information contained in the first few chapters and the appendix, which contains good info about many commentaries.

The need for a hermeneutical book such as How to Read the Bible is a testament to the greatness of Scripture itself because “either you understand perfectly everything the author has to say or you do not. If you do, you may have gained information, but you could not have increased your understanding,” and that is what the authors here intended to facilitate.[1]  The strength of How to Read the Bible comes from the overall guide and tone, in general terms, given to the reader, and the methodical details presented in each section or chapter.  This guideline, while far from being a step-by-step process to Biblical understanding, does give the reader general principles to better understanding the Biblical literature, and how the Biblical authors intended their writing to be understood.  This was achieved in a manner that can be easily understood by readers of all levels, and yet provided enough depth to maintain the attention of those readers quite familiar with hermeneutics.

Unfortunately, the book’s weakness, which cannot be understated, comes from the author’s discussion on translations, and their overall choice of the TNIV to underline their text.  Readers today, in 2012, have the benefit of almost a decade of scrutiny towards the TNIV, which the authors did not have when revising How to Read the Bible in 2003.  One would hope their scholarly opinions might have changed somewhat since the publication date.  Any revised edition to the text in the future should include a completely rewritten section on translations, or the authors could leave more of their personal opinions to the side, allowing the reader to decide on their own which translation is best given the information in the book.  This suggestion would follow the author’s own statements when they stress the importance of finding a text where the authors “discuss all the possible meanings, evaluate them, and give reasons for his or her own choice.”[2]  This was attempted, just not executed as well as one would have hoped for.

Overall, How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth is, and will be, an excellent source for beginning a study in hermeneutics.  The text is not an end all of hermeneutical material, but well worth the investment in time to complete.  Any student, laymen, or individual interested in understanding Scripture to its fullest possibility will benefit from the work of Fee and Stuart.  This review and critique examined the manner in which the authors achieved the task of being obedient to the Biblical texts through teaching a hermeneutical process, and for the most part, the authors accomplished this task admirably.

[1] Mortimer J. Adler, Charles Van Doren. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1972.

[2] Fee, Gordon D., and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

Did Jesus Descend into Hell According to the Apostles' Creed?

It was just about this time last year that I wrote a post with a similar question, and answered it in a slightly generic non-scholarly sort of research answer (see Did Jesus Descend into Hell After He Died on the Cross?). I had no idea that in the time of about a year I would actually write a research paper on the “descent doctrine” to complete requirements for my seminary degree (MDiv). When I wrote the post last year, it was an apologetic questioning of how could Jesus have descended into Hell at the same time he told the thief on the cross that “today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43)? This time, it was a more scholastic look at the doctrine through exegetical/systematic theology research.

Why Does the Descent into Hell Doctrine Matter?

When studying theology, especially systematic theology that attempts to “formulate an orderly, rational, and coherent account of the Christian faith,” I always try to understand why it matters, why is it important to study this particular doctrine. To me, in this particular case, it is for Joseph in the photo above that I took last October when I was in Uganda. His picture hasn’t necessarily haunted me, but I think of him often. When we visited this facility, which was two hours into the middle of Uganda, he had been there for two years, and had no idea how much longer he would be there. He was isolated, alone, and really had no outward hope.

Christ died for this man.  When Christ exclaimed “Τετέλεσται” on the cross (John 19:30), he told history’s past, present, and future, that his work was complete and fulfilled; payment for the sins of the world was paid in full at that very moment. There wasn’t anything else He had to do to make His work complete, at the very moment Christ “gave up His Spirit,” it was over. What this means for Joseph is hope in a coming Paradise, and there is nothing else he has to do, other than to believe in Christ. He doesn’t have to spend a certain amount of time in torment before he can arrive in the presence of God. There are many other “reasons” for studying this doctrine of course, but that is just what was on my mind as I went through this research.

Overview of the Descent into Hell Doctrine

I am not going to post my entire research, or even a large portion, since it will no doubt be long and boring to some. If you are interested in the details and how I came to the conclusions I did, please read An Overview of the Work of Christ: Did Jesus Descend into Hell After the Crucifixion, I would love to hear your comments or feedback if you are so inclined to read the paper.

Within the traditional wording of the Apostles Creed there is one statement, which has been recited by millions of believers for centuries, that says, “Jesus descended into Hell.”[1]  This one statement, which was not in the original version, and a few select expositions of Scripture, has become the basis for the relatively undeveloped doctrine “Jesus Descended into Hell.”[2]  This doctrine, which resides within the greater systematic theology of “The Work of Christ,” has been controversial for centuries, but yet is generally accepted by the lay faithful without much investigation into its credibility.[3]  The understanding of this doctrine comes from a handful of various Scripture references between the Old and New Testaments, five specific verses anchored on 1 Peter 3:18-20, and the long history of the Apostles’ Creed.  While the Apostles’ Creed has a history going back to the early church, “we must seek for a surer exposition of Christ’s descent to hell.”[4]  This paper will argue that the doctrine “Jesus Descended into Hell,” when viewed through a proper exegesis of Scripture, is not sufficient to confirm the belief that Jesus did spend three days in the torments of Hell.

The problem with using the Apostles’ Creed as the basis for developing this doctrine is that the line “descended into Hell” wasn’t added to the Apostles’ Creed until about the 8th Century A.D.  Outside of the Apostles’ Creed, no where in Scripture does it explicitly state that Christ descended into Hell after the crucifixion, but there are five specific Scriptures used to defend the descent doctrine, mainly Acts 2:27, Romans 10:6-7, Ephesians 4:8-10, 1 Peter 3:18-20, and 1 Peter 4:4-6. As shown in the research, all of these Scriptures, when taken through a proper exegetical view, taken in context, refute the descent into Hell doctrine. To read the paper in full, just click the link above or go to my writing section.

[1] Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics, The Apostles’ Creed, http://www.reformed.org/documents/apostles_creed.html.

[2] R. C. Sproul, 1&2 Peter: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 125.

[3] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 791.

[4] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1st Edition, trans. Henry Beveridge (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 2.16.10.

Martin Luther's Table Talk on the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper

A good bit of seminary work is reading the classics from Calvin and Luther going back all the way to Augustine. There is a good reason, they have a huge amount of collective knowledge we can all still learn from today and apply to our own ministry. Table Talk is the classic text written by Martin Luther that launches into “a relentless attack on the ethics and consciences” of Christian religious practices (the Church of Rome or the Catholic Church as we know it today).[1] The text is broken up into 45 “Of” treatise with a final conclusion on the Treatise on Indulgences.

Luther’s language, and the translation from German to English, still retains the form of his day, making it a little harder to understand in the 21st century, but the points are still clear.  His arguments are more or less similar to the differences between the Catholic faith and Protestants that still exist today.

Starting in chapter CCCLVI and going through chapter CCCLXV, Luther takes a look at number fourteen on his list, “Of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper,” which deals with how the Roman Church was using the Lord’s Supper sacrament in the late 15th and early 16th century, but recognizes its ordination at the council of Constance as well.[2]  Three points to take away from this section are (1) the altering of the sacrament by raising it, (2) the substance of the bread and wine, and (3) the ex opera operato and the effectiveness of the sacrament.

As was fitting within the culture of his day, he held no punches when explaining his views on the subject.  “The ignorant wretches are not able to distinguish between the cup and fasting… one has God’s express word and command, the other consists in our will and choice.”[3]  Luther starts his argument with a lengthy explanation of how the papists have justified their actions in altering the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  He then proceeds through a step-by-step process of pointing out their errors, calling it an abominable idolatry by raising the “sacrament on high to show people.”[4] Luther says this practice should be “utterly rejected,” and he calls on churches to abolish this idolatrous practice, some of which did follow his recommendation.

The next point is one Luther does not spend much time discussing, although it becomes one of the biggest points of contention between the Roman Church and Protestants, and still is today. The argument, which argues the actual substance of the bread and the wine, and whether it does contain the actual flesh and blood of Christ himself, is still discussed today.  Luther in section CCCLXII almost alludes to this practice, but it is clear that he is referring to the substance of the sacrament, “which is spiritually received by faith… not doubting that Christ’s body and blood were given and shed for us.”[5]

The final point to look at within this section of Table Talk is the ex opera operato, which the Catholic Church said pertained to the efficacy of the sacrament.  This Latin phrase that means “from the work done” pertains to the work done by Christ, the sinful nature of those priests who give the sacrament, and whether the sacrament is effective or not depending on who is giving the sacrament.  Luther’s point was they “do not hold the sacrament as Christ instituted it,” therefore they don’t actually have the sacrament at all, and they are not justified because of ex opera operato.

[1] Martin Luther, Table Talk of Martin Luther, 1st, trans. William Hazlitt (Orlando, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2004), ix.
[2] Ibid, 225.
[3] Ibid, 225.
[4] Ibid, 227.
[5] Ibid, 228.

A Review and Critique of The Four Views on Hell

I just finished off another book. Every time I’m able to finish a book I think it’s a really amazing thing to me, still. Below is part of a review I did on this particular book called The Four Views on Hell (Amazon). Even though I had to read the book for a seminary class it was still worth the read, though perhaps not quite as closely as I had to read it.

The Doctrine of Hell is something rarely taught anymore in our churches, and it’s an important part of the Christian faith, and our story as fallen beings. There is much more of the prosperity gospel preached today than the reality of a real place of separation from God, an eternal punishment, for those who do not trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior. For those who confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead, will be saved.

If you would like to read the entire review, you can read Book Critique of Four Views on Hell by Walvoord in a pdf form.  Below is the summary of that review.  The book does take a good look at four different views of Hell, basically, the Traditional View (Orthodox or Literally View), Annihilationism, Purgatory, and Universalism.

In this review of Four Views on Hell, each argument was presented and evaluated. The reader was given an argument on Hell where one could quickly see the demarcation lines between each view. However, all four authors stop somewhat short from making a full apologetic case for their particular view in question. They all agree that historically, the Traditional or Literal View is the orthodox view, and then “they all acknowledge it has fallen out of favor” as of late.[21] “Today a number of evangelical churchmen embrace variations of [these views] in terms such as ‘[B]iblical Universalism’, ‘qualified Universalism’, and ‘conditional immortality’” as the alternative to the Literal View and the eternal separation from God.[22]

The underlying issue as to why the Literal view is no longer favored is loosely addressed throughout the book, but has an overall tone in line with our pluralistic society saying no just God of grace and mercy can possibly send anyone to an eternal punishment, no matter the sin. “How can we project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness [Who] tortures people without end,” which is what the Literal view teaches?[23] With this as the general tone of each view, a better examination of the views would be to treat them within the culture setting of today as: The Doctrine of Hell, Annihilationism, Purgatory, and Universalism.

The doctrines that most closely follow Scripture are not always going to be in line with secular society, or liberal theology, but looking at these four views of Hell is beneficial to the reader no matter what theological base they align with today. Of the four views, Crockett’s argument for a less literal view of Hell was well thought out and presented, and makes Hell more palatable to the modern day reader, but Walvoor’s Literal View is still the most orthodox, and most closely aligned with the teaching of Scripture, and therefore, the best alternative of the four.

[1] Jonathan Edwards, The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader, 1st Edition, ed. Wilson H. Kimnach, Kenneth P. Minkema and Douglas A. Sweeney (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 50.
[2] John Walvoord, Zachary Hayes and Clark Pinnock, Four Views on Hell, EPub Edition, ed. Stanley N. Gundry and William Crockett (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 7.
[3] Dr. John Walvoord, About Dr. John Walvoord, http://www.walvoord.com/about-dr-john-walvoord (accessed February 15, 2012).
[4] William V. Crockett, Amazon.com Author Page William V. Crockett, Amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com/William-V.-Crockett/e/B00653NJTU/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0 (accessed February 15, 2012).
[5] Zachary J. Hayes, About Zachary J. Hayes, http://www.zondervan.com/Cultures/en-US/Authors/Author.htm?ContributorID=HayesZ&QueryStringSite=Zondervan (accessed February 15, 2012).
[6] Bob Allen, Controversial theologian Clark Pinnock dies, August 18, 2010, http://www.abpnews.com/content/view/5451/53/ (accessed February 15, 2012).
[13] Rev Jeff Wright, “Book Review: Four Views on Hell,” Jeff Wright: Exalt Christ, April 03, 2010, http://jeffwright.exaltchrist.com/?p=690 (accessed February 15, 2012).
[18] J. R. Root, “Universalism,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2001, 2nd ed, 1234.
[20] Eric Stoddart and Gwilym Pryce, “Observed Aversion to Raising Hell in Pastoral Care: The Conflict Between Doctrine and Practice,” Journal of Empirical Theology (Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden) 18, no. 2 (January 2005): 133.
[21] Cris D. Putnam, “Book Critique: Four Views On Hell,” Logos Apologia, March 14, 2011, http://www.logosapologia.org/?p=1725 (accessed February 15, 2012).
[22] R. P. Lightner, “Hell,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2001, 2nd ed., 547-548.

The Priority of the Church isn't the Alter Call

Over the last several years I have been asked to answer, from many different perspectives, “What is the purpose/priority of the church” and “What makes a true disciple?” (this post is the first question). Most of the time the answer to this question comes from what our culture says, and not from what Scripture says, but it’s not all that hard to answer the question properly from Scripture.

To answer that, this post is filled with two-by-two’s. There are two questions posed to answer the question about the church, two photos representative of the answer. The text standing for a formal seminary conclusion, and the photos representing a tangible aspect of that answer. I love the photo above, at least to me, this is the result of the work of the church, that is, the love of Christ, sent.

Which habits of the early church are still practiced today?

We read about the earliest formation of the church, and what they consistently practiced, in the first few chapters of the book of Acts, specifically in Acts 2.42-47. This is one of the first summaries given to us in the book of Acts.  As a summary, they were first and foremost devoted to the Apostles teachings (Scripture), fellowship (Gk. koinonia or participation and sharing), breaking of break (the Lord’s Supper and larger fellowship meals), and prayer (in houses and the temple). These would be the priorities practiced in the earliest church body. In addition to those, verses 45-47 give us a little more detail as they were selling their possessions, attending to the temple, and praising God.

One difference between the church in Acts 2 and the church as it proceeded through history is how many times it has now fractured into another set of beliefs or understandings (denominations), yet still being a part of the same body of believers. In Acts, they were said to have been “together, and had all things in common” (Acts 2.44), but it didn’t take long before differences started to tug at the church. This can be see as early as Peter in Acts 10, but today we almost have to define the church first since some churches seem to not have any understanding of Acts 2, let along put any of these items into practice. With that understanding, a true body of believers will still consistently practice all the items in Acts 2. Most churches who hold Scripture as inerrant will be consistently devoted to the Word (the Apostles teaching), fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, prayer, the church building itself, and to small groups (meeting at the home). If there was one among the list in Acts 2.42-47 that is most neglected today it would probably be “selling their possessions” and making sure the brethren lack for nothing. This is more of a nationalistic thing today (meaning it’s different in each country), and in the U.S. the church has given way to the government as the “helper” of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Is the priority of the church to engage the laity in ministry and witness?

The priority of the church must be the summary outlined in Acts 2.42. This is what the earliest tradition stated, which was founded on the immediate resurrection and ascension of Christ who put this summary in place. Therefore, the priority of the church should be (1) being devoted to Scripture, (2) fellowship, (3) breaking bread, and (4) prayer. In short, this means the church is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ” until we reach maturity in faith (Ephesians 4.12-13). The question above combines two pieces (ministry and witness) that the author of Ephesians doesn’t necessarily make in 4.12-13, though the importance of being a witness for Christ is made in other areas of Scripture. In this context, the priority of the church, as seen in Acts 2 and Ephesians 4, is to use the spiritual gifts given to the saints, to build up the saints, so they can then go out beyond the church and become effective witnesses.

In essence, that means the church is not necessarily here to bring in scores of the unsaved and the faithless so as to then convert them from within the church. The equipped saints are to be working as witnesses, and then bringing in those who have responded to the call of Christ in their life.  This practice of alter-calling has been a long-standing use of the church, but it shouldn’t necessarily be the priority if the church is to follow the example given to us by the book of Acts. The best way to do this would be to discover, develop, and use the spiritual gifts given to us as listed in Ephesians 4.11; Romans 12.6-8; 1 Corinthians 12.7-10, 28-30; and 1 Peter 4.8-10.[1]

The last set of two in this post are the actual photos themselves. The photo above is the church, in fellowship and worship, and the photo at the top is the result of that love.

[1] Darrell W. Robinson, Total Church Life: How to be a First Century Church in a 21st Century World (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishers, 1997), 108.

The Necessity of Prayer by E.M. Bounds Book Review

Below is a short review of a book I just finished called The Necessity of Prayer by E.M. Bounds. It can be read for free here, or on Amazon over here, or even on audiobook over here. If you want the real real short version then pick up this book and read it, it is fantastic, and only takes about 3-4 hours to read.

E.M. Bounds was a man of prayer. Prayer to Bounds was said to be such “a physical reality” that the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing,” was taken as literally as humanly possible. Prayer was said to be as important to Bounds as breathing, and he lived his life accordingly.[1] Bounds had much to pray for as a “Civil War Chaplin and then POW” in Saint Louis, MO before the Civil War ended.[2] As a result of his lifetime of work, The Necessity of Prayer survives to the present day providing spiritual guidance in prayer “for a lifetime of water-drawing.”[3]

Critique and Interaction

The Necessity of Prayer was compiled from Bounds’ manuscripts after his death and is broken up into fourteen short chapters. Within the fourteen chapters are ten discourses about prayer, and how it pertains to faith, trust, desire, fervency, importunity, character, obedience, vigilance, the Word of God, and the House of God. Each chapter has a short introduction quote given by a leader in prayer or from an anonymous, but relevant, source.

Bounds does not start out with spiritual milk, gradually introducing the subject (1 Corinthians 3:2), but rather the author starts immediately with meat, and an in-depth look at prayer and faith. Within the opening chapters on faith Bounds relies heavily on Scripture showing how God’s word is the foundation of prayer. Example after example is given, showing how he drew conclusions, even when it came to those with a lack of faith and prayer such as Asa.[4] Bounds then moves into examples from Elijah, Daniel, and Christ himself, all of who prayed repeatedly, trusting that the Father had heard their requests.[5] As Bounds moves through the different sections he weaves a pattern, which fuses prayer, God’s Word, and each of his ten points until he proves that “prayer should enter into and underlie everything that is undertaken.”[6]  For Bounds this is not just a concept to be studied, this was played out in practical instruction. He admonishes those in ministry who want to be successful to spend twice as long in prayer as they do in the study of Scripture.[7]


E.M. Bounds’ The Necessity of Prayer is a foundation for prayer, and one that should be a priority for any Christian wishing to understand the practicalities of prayer. This publication is written is such a way that any lay-person can read, understand, and glean its wisdom, and any scholar can continue to gain insight for years to come. Bounds relies so heavily on Scripture that his conclusions are less about a personal opinion on prayer and more about understanding the will of God for His people through prayer. There are few modern pastors who seemed to have been more focused on understanding prayer, and as a result, Bounds has given God’s people a call to prayer. “No man loves the Bible, who does not love to pray. No man loves to pray, who does not delight in the law of the Lord.”[8] Bounds uses Jesus in Luke 4:16 to prove this, and then concludes “no two things are more essential to a spirit-filled life than Bible-reading and secret prayer,” and neglecting these two things gives the “Evil One” a great advantage.[9]

[1] E.M. Bounds, The Necessity of Prayer (Radford, VA: Wilder Publications, 2008), ii.
[2] David Smithers, “The Life of E. M. Bounds, What Others Say About E.M. Bounds: Prayer Makes History,” Jehova.net, http://jehova.net/bounds/bounds-biography.htm.
[3] Bounds, ii.
[4] Ibid, 33.
[5] Ibid, 37.
[6] Ibid, 78-79.
[7] Ibid, 80.
[8] Ibid, 75.
[9] Ibid.

Ministering to the Church At the Expense of the Family

This is an old topic, but one that never goes away, for good reason. Below is basically an excerpt from an assignment in one of my evangelism classes on Servant-Leadership and innovations in the Church, and also serves as a very short review of the book InnovateChurch by Jonathan Falwell. In a three part discussion on leadership, this was topic number one, learning how to minister to the church, but not at the expense of your family.

There are four non-negotiable commitments presented by Jonathan Falwell in InnovateChurch that pastors (and I would add church staff) need to make to themselves, and to God, for effective leadership in the church. As an administrative staff member I will admit, the one I found most difficult to keep is number two: I will not minister to my church at the expense of my family. On the surface, this probably sounds like an easy one to keep, and when I entered into ministry work in 2008 I was committed to this very statement right from the start.

In fact, if your ministry is to be more successful, however that is quantified, it must start with managing your household well. (1 Tim 3.5) There are a few basic things that have kept me focused on the proper balance, or margin if you will. It doesn’t always work in ministry as something, or someone, can always quickly pull you right back in with an “important” issue, or something that needs to be completed right away if you are not diligent.

  1. It is important to make our priorities line up properly, as stated in InnovateChurch
  2. God should be first, our family second, and our ministry third.[1] Saying or writing this isn’t good enough. This actually has to be lived out, and as such, will be proof of its importance in our lives.  How are we making God our first priority? How are we managing our household well, and where do we need to change or improve what we are doing day by day.

  3. We have to learn how to manage our time well
  4. This means learning how to say no without feeling guilty about saying no, even if it is something important. Often times in church ministry, everything is of the utmost importance, mainly because it is most important to the person asking. We cannot get into the habit of allowing our schedule or calendar to control our life in idol-like fashion.

  5. We have to learn how to focus on a few things we do well, and let the others go

This means learning how to delegate without looking back. Learning how to give tasks away is hard, especially if they will not be done as well as if we did them ourselves. This includes learning how to enlist volunteers, and building teams of people who can accomplish what we can’t simply because we can’t work 24 hours a day. Rarely is one person only gifted with the ability to do only one task, but God has gifted us with the ability to do a few things very well. This strikes in the face of our multi-tasking 21st century culture, but delegating allows us to focus on those things we can do very well, or are at least our highest priority.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means of course. I do know that when I have built in margin, giving time to my family, I am more productive, and better focused as a staff member. Sometimes that means the most important place I can be, especially in the evening, is in that chair next to Deborah (and Ebby) in our living room.

[1] Jonathan Falwell, ed., Innovate Church, ed. Jonathan Falwell (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 14.

Mission Theology and Being a Multisite Church in Auburn

I love being part of a local church body that takes the GO in God’s word literally, and seriously. Last week I spent as much time as I could studying about mission theology and how it relates to the nature of God for an international missions paper. Even though my study was under the context of international mission, much of the study of mission theology relates to the mission that is being lived out through our local congregation here in Auburn, and local churches all across the country.

Sunday was our very first meeting and worship service for the new multisite location, and it was amazing to see about 150 people there to kick off the new site. With 150 people or more who have committed to making this new site a success it is already bigger than about 80% of the churches in the country. But more importantly, the people here have a huge heart committed to serving people in our area who have never walked into a church before, and that is exactly what scripture talks about through mission theology.

Throughout the Old and New Testament scriptures, God’s mission is deeply related to His own nature.  In fact, the two terms are so deeply related to each other that mission can be defined as being part of the “nature of God.”  The Latin term missio Dei is often translated as the “sending of God” or the “mission of God” and is derived from the very nature of God himself,  “encompassing everything God does in relation to the kingdom and everything the church is sent to do on earth.”[1]  When we examine scripture in context we see that “God is the initiator of His mission” sent to redeem his people through Christ, and then through the Church.[2]

While mission is not the only “nature of God”, the nature of God can’t be separated from mission. It is in God’s very nature, and is played out from the calling of Abraham, to the exile and exodus of the Israelites, to the coming the Son of God the Messiah. It can be seen in the setup of the New Testament Church in the book of Acts, and on into our modern day evangelical churches like my own where our leadership long ago decided that this church would not sit idle while “someone else” did the work of mission.

The very mission of God, which is to receive the praise and worship of all nations, is so closely woven together that neither could exist without the other. In modern day cultural terms, mission is not often thought of as a theology, and is rarely related to other aspects of theology.  But, when scripture is closely examined, we see God indeed calls all nations to worship him, which then makes it “natural to build a theology of mission at the core of all theological studies.”[3][4]

All that to say, this is an exciting time here at Cornerstone as we move ahead with being one church in multiple locations. We are one of very few multisite churches in our area, or even the state, who are moving through a plan to reach people in our area through more than one location, and doing so with missio Dei as the focus.

[1] McIntosh, John A. 2000. Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions, ed. A Scott Moreau, s.v. “Missio Dei.” Grand Rapids: Baker.

[2] Sanders, Van. “The Mission of God and the Local Church,” in Pursuing the Mission of God in Church Planting, ed. John M. Bailey, Alpharetta: North American Mission Board, 2006, 24.

[3] Moreau, A. S., Corwin, G. R., & McGee, G. B. (2004). Introduction to World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (1st Edition ed.). Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Baker Academic, 75.

[4] Bosch, David J. 1980. Witness to the World: The Christian Mission in Theological Perspective. Atlanta: John Knox.