Are pastors an obstacle to the priesthood of believers?

TC Robinson has a post “The Pastor: Obstacle to every member functioning”. He has raised a question in the blogosphere that has more of us thinking.  It provoked something in me that saddens me because I think it is true.  For many of the pastor-centric churches/congregations, the pastor has been an obstacle to a properly functioning congregation.

TC’s quote from Pagan Christianity by Viola and Barna says that the modern day pastor is an easy target—a punching bag, if you will:

THE PASTOR. He is the fundamental figure of the Protestant faith.  So prevailing is the pastor in the minds of most Christians that he is often better known, more highly praised, and more heavily relied upon than Jesus Christ Himself!

Remove the pastor and most Protestant churches would be thrown into a panic.  (pp. 105-6, Pagan Christianity, emphasis mine)

The early church did not have pastors or priests like we do today but the church was able to function.   The people held on to their faith in Christ and died in the name of Jesus Christ.  The church didn’t die but prevailed in the face of persecution, trials and tribulations.  Did the early church have sermons and teaching? Or prayers? Liturgy? Or hymns and songs?  Probably, but they were not officiated by the pastor/priest.   The laity or the people presided over the worship services way before there was ever a pastor as we know today.

The bible mentions shepherds, overseers, elders and deacons, but my question is what positional authority did these positions include?  If we removed the position and authority of the pastor as we know it today, would the church begin to function like it should–as a priesthood of all believers?

The Lutheran Study Bible special pricing deadline is October 31: Get one!

I didn’t get a review copy of  The Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB) but I know that I will be very impressed with it when I get my own copy.  Yesterday, our bible study group put in an order for a case of these babies before the October 31 special pricing deadline.   The regular hardback is 3½ pounds and large print is a whopping 5½ pounds.  I prefer large print but am I going to lug a 5½ pound bible to bible study? No way. So I ordered the regular font sized hardback edition without the frills, just a basic hardcover that I can use for bible study on Thursday evenings.

Why would a person want to use The Lutheran Study Bible?  There are 12 reasons if you’re Lutheran.  But if you’re not Lutheran, I don’t really know why except to educate yourself in some good old Lutheran theology.  It’s good…really! In the past, I know Lutherans haven’t exactly been high profile bible publishers and translators but I think this edition will be a first for Lutherans putting out a very high quality study bible so I applaud Concordia for taking this initiative.  I was impressed with the sampler so I’m looking forward to finally getting my own copy just for its Lutheran content written by Lutheran contributors.  Note, that I’m not in it for the translation (ESV);  I’m in it for the uniquely Lutheran perspective, and its emphasis on rightly dividing law and gospel, which is lacking in much of our theologies today.

In the past, the small Lutheran voice in the culture of faith have been drowned out in the cacophony of evangelical voices in airwaves and popular Christian media.  And sadly, I think The Lutheran Study Bible will also likely be lost in the plethora of evangelical-based study bibles and translations, but that’s okay.  If you’re Lutheran, don’t let that deter you from investing in one.  I honestly believe that if  TLSB had the opportunity to really display its qualities, I’m sure it would stand out as a bright gem amongst other gems of study bibles. It easily holds its own against the ESV, NLT, and T/NIV study bibles and it might even out-do them. I still need to get a copy in my hands before saying anything more.   I admit–the reality is that if you’re not Lutheran, you probably won’t get one.

But okay, enough bragging up for the Lutheran Study Bible.  Get one for yourself, especially if you’re Lutheran.

All Saints Day: any saints today deserving of recognition?

In the earliest days, St. John the Baptist and the early martyrs were honoured by a special day. The earliest day was traced back to Sunday after Pentecost. During the persecution under Diocletian’s rule there were a great number of Christians martyred so this common day was appointed by theRoman Catholic Church (RCC). Gradually, more saints were added to the list of saints including patron saints recognized by the RCC, plus saints like Luther and Calvin added by protestant churches.

I found out how a person becomes a Catholic saint according to the RCC:

1) The person must have exhibited heroic virtues in life;
2) There must have been a confirmed miracle attributed to the person; and
3) There must be another miracle attributed to his/her intercession.

If a person meets these three requirements, then he/she is canonized by the Roman Catholic Church as a saint.

Today, there are almost as many saints as there are days in the year. But why stop now? Today, I think many more saints of the Lord who are not Roman Catholic but are evangelicals. Protestants, evangelicals, and charismatics who claim numerous uncountable miracles are not as big on celebrating saints like the RCC but who are, nevertheless, deserving of the same commemoration as martyrs.

Why not open All Saints’ Day to all deserving candidates? Are there any lesser-known saints you know of who deserves to be recognized by us today?

Crossway has a way to help you share the good news of Christmas

Is your church beginning to plan a Christmas musical/production? How about delivering gift bags while Christmas carolling? Crossway has creative and cost-effective way to help churches, para-ministries, and individuals engage in missional activity in a pro-active way.  When your friends or neighbors open up these bags, I feel the two most important items they will find are an invitation, and a small outreach edition of the New Testament. The tract and the temporary access to an online bible for 30 days are what I’d consider throw-aways.

What type of events might the invitation be used for? Perhaps the annual Christmas production or musical, the Christmas Eve service, a home-group meeting, or even for coffee in your own home?  I can also see how churches engaging in missional outreach might want to deliver these little gift bags by hand within their surrounding community, or if they’re not home, visitors may even hang them onto the doors at friends’ homes during a home visitation or during Christmas carolling.  But it’s the personal invitation that will bring them out to a Christmas event at church.  That is where the real personal outreach ministry happens.

These kits by Crossway contain:

  • 50 Christmasy door-hanger bags
  • 50 New Testaments (ESV) Christmas outreach editions
  • 50 customizable invitations to attend a Christmas service at your church/ministry
  • 50 copies of The Good News of Christmas tract by Max Lucado
  • 50 cards giving 30-day access to the ESV Online Study Bible
  • 1 instruction card
  • 1 reproducible church bulletin insert

In Canada, these kits sell Cdn$59.99 (or Cdn$1.20 per home).  In the US, it’s US$50.00 per kit (US$1.00 per home).

Martin Luther’s Here I Stand – free download

FYI, there a free download of Martin Luther’s Here I Stand, a 24-minute recording by Max McLean. Download it by November 1.HT: TC

We just celebrated Reformation Sunday this morning, and showed our youth a clip from the Luther movie Joseph Fiennes (2003) during confirmation class.

H1N1 and not shaking hands in church

The  news about  the H1N1 virus seems to be that it is spreading faster.  This will be important for all churches to be considering at the moment.

As a result, our two congregations have decided that our people will not be shaking hands with one another at church. This means no shaking hands with the pastor and no sharing the peace…at least until the flue season is over.  We thought that taking this preventive measure will minimize the chance of contracting the virus. Another precaution is to keep some hand sanitizers around the church like they do in hospitals and health care centers. We have also decided that people serving/assisting in holy communion should use hand sanitizer before serving.

Pope Benedict makes it easier for disenchanted Anglicans to convert

Since the consecration of the openly gay Bishop gene Robinson in 2003 and the blessing of same-sex marriages in the Anglican Church in Canada (ACC), there was no turning back.  The wedge was set and hammered into the heart of the Anglican Communion across the U.S. and Canada.  Now it’s open season.

It is now easier for disenchanted Anglicans to convert to Roman Catholicism.  The new constitution will allow groups of disenchanted Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church while keeping some of its Anglican traditions—even some Anglican liturgy.  This openness from Rome will allow the appointment of leaders and bishops to oversee former Anglican churches.  It will even allow married Anglican priests to be ordained as Roman Catholic priests, except for bishops. Sorry bishops.

In response, Cardinal George said in a USCCB press release:

“Today the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has received word of the new Provision in the form of an apostolic constitution issued by the Holy See for the reception into full communion with the Catholic Church of groups from the Anglican tradition. The USCCB stands ready to collaborate in the implementation of that Provision in our country.

“This step by the Holy See is in response to a number of requests received in Rome from groups of Anglicans seeking corporate reunion. The application of the new Provision recognizes the desire of some Anglicans (Episcopalians) to live the Catholic faith in full, visible communion with the See of Peter, while at the same time retaining some elements of their traditions of liturgy, spirituality and ecclesial life which are consistent with the Catholic faith. full article…

Is this easy pathway the best for disenchanted Anglicans?  It’s an easy way to stick it to the Episcopal Church and Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury but is the Roman Catholic Church the only place to turn to for protestants of the liturgical tradition?  Traditional Anglicans have nowhere else left to turn to right now because the Lutheran Church (ELCA) has become as liberal as the Episcopal Church.  But who wants to join a church that carries the name of an excommunicated Augustinian priest?  Anglicans still have a choice. Pre-existing Lutherans don’t.

It’s nice that Rome is so open to receiving disenchanted Anglicans but I wonder why Pope Benedict is so eager?    It almost seems like this is open season in the Roman Church…anything goes and everything is up for grabs.  He is becoming as anxious and eager as evangelical protestants in receiving new converts.  Evangelical churches, watch out.  Rome is coming and competing with evangelicals in converting the converted.  Pope Benedict really knows what he’s doing.  He’d make evangelicals proud because he’s outdoing the evangelicals in evangelism in typical evangelical-style.  It seems like the only church that isn’t doing much evangelism to Episcopalians is the Episcopal Church, which will be sliced and chopped apart.  Oh, but we can’t forget about the other evangelical Anglican churches competing for disenchanted Anglicans (e.g., ACNA).

Is it going to be so easy for Anglicans to recognize the pope as their leader?  The risk for the Roman Catholic Church is that it may even reopen the issue of celibacy in the priesthood.  I wonder what deacons in the RCC think about this?

Cardinal George Responds to Vatican Announcement on Anglican Groups Entering Catholic Church

(Hat tip for video: Tim).

Exodus 22:8-9 “God” or “Judges”?

I think this will really bug some people as it bugs me.  It seems that Exodus 22:8-9 is clearly referring to judges but some translations like the NLT,  ESV, NRSV rendered elohim as “God“; but TNIV and CSB rendered elohim as “judges“.  Yes, technically, “God” is correct; but it seems clear to me that elohim (in the sense of a small “g” gods) which can be translated as judges, was what the writers/scribes intended.

Should we go with what we know as technically correct? Or should we go with what we know the writer/scribe/editor intended?

_________________________  Exodus 22:8-9 _________________________

NLT But if the thief is not caught, the neighbor must appear before God, who will determine if he stole the property. 9 “Suppose there is a dispute between two people who both claim to own a particular ox, donkey, sheep, article of clothing, or any lost property. Both parties must come before God, and the person whom God declares guilty must pay double compensation to the other.

ESV If the thief is not found, the owner of the house shall come near to God to show whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. 9 For every breach of trust, whether it is for an ox, for a donkey, for a sheep, for a cloak, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor.

TNIV But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, and they must determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property. 9 In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says, ‘This is mine,’ both parties are to bring their cases before the judges. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to the other.

CSB If the thief is not caught, the owner of the house must present himself to the judges to determine whether or not he has taken his neighbor’s property. 9 In any case of wrongdoing involving an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or anything else lost, and someone claims: That’s mine, the case between the two parties is to come before the judges. The one the judges condemn must repay double to his neighbor.

Global Leadership Summit misses out on core issues of pastoral ministry

As I briefly blogged before about attending the Global Leadership Summit, I report that it was an overall positive experience.  It is geared to large to megasize churches.  Since I shepherd two small churches, much of what was irrelevant to smaller congregations.  Moreover, I felt that a lot of what was spoken was about inspiring leaders to lead rather than about pastoral leadership.

It was nice to listen to speakers like Bono, David Gergen, Jessica Jackley but more than 98% of their speeches were irrelevant to the work of pastoral care and ministry. The speeches by Harvey Carey, and Wes Stafford could have been heard at any church’s sermon. Gary Hamel’s speech was about business. The only speech that was focussed on pastoral ministry was that of Bill Hybels’. Unfortunately there wasn’t more of it.

Willow Creek’s Pastor Bill Hybels, is a pastor and a leader, and the two terms are not synonymous terms.  A leader is a leader who leads and inspires but does not necessarily includes a spiritual component.  A pastor does this too, but more specifically, a pastor core purpose is to provides pastoral care and ministry.

After this conference, I do not think I will return for another because I am looking for more of a pastoral focus.  My preference in the future will be to attend conferences that are geared specifically toward pastoral leadership.  If you know of any conferences out there specifically directed to pastoral leadership, let me know.

In late January, I look forward to attending Breakforth, which is the largest equipping conference in North America.

Review: BibleWorks8

I wish to thank the fine people at BibleWorks for sending me this review copy of BibleWorks8.

BibleWorks8 is a software for exegesis and research.  It comes in very good use when doing research. I have found myself using this more often to pull up my favorite bible translations when I do exegesis.  I think this has now become my standard bible software.

BibleWorks8 comes with all the popular bible translations, including the NJB, NET Bible, JPS Tanahk, various Greek New Testaments, Hebrew bibles and Septuagint versions.  It also has bible translations for over 30 languages.  BibleWorks searches one version at a time but it can display as many translations as one wants.   If you want to search another translation, you have to switch to another translation.  I don’t find this too inconvenient but I suspect that a multiple translation search would slow down the search considerable.  I would prefer speed.  Furthermore, the older computers wouldn’t be able to handle a multiple search anyway.

There are all the popular translations you can think of—even the less popular translations like God’s Word, Complete Jewish Bible, Douay-Rheims, ERV, Peshitta-Ethridge, Geneva Bible, JPS (1917, 1985), Hone NT Apoc., James NT Apoc., Josephus Works, Septuagint LXX (Brenton, Magiera Peshitta, James Murdoch, Norton Peshitta, Targum Onkelos, Bishop’s NT, Rodkinson Mishnah, Tyndale’s NT, Webster’s Bible, Young’s Literal Trans.  What I noticed missing were: NCV, CEV, Message; however, I didn’t miss them anyway.  I’m not complaining about it because with this many translations, one can’t complain.

Just to see how capable the search was, I tried a search, and it displayed about 40 translations at once including Chinese and Korean translations without a problem.  I was impressed.  However, I wouldn’t try doing search and display on a phrase with that many translations.  No more going online to search different translations one at a time.  Now I can search and display as many translations as I want all at once.  This saves me a bundle of time.

The tricky thing to keep in mind is that when you display your list of translations, it will show you either the active versions only or all versions.  I prefer to show all versions because you can check and uncheck the versions you want to view or not to view.

Once you have selected which translations to view, you can also order them according to your preference from first to last.  I like this because sometimes, I don’t even bother to look at the less preferred translations, which will be displayed at the end of my versions displayed.

Another nice feature in BibleWorks8 is that it will allow you to search for a word, or even a phrase, from a list of verses searched and displayed.  What I mean is that after you have searched for a list of verses with the words you want, by clicking on an entirely different word in that list, it will pull up a new search on the word you just clicked on.  It does a continuous search on new words quite easily without having to enter a new word in the search.  After the search is completed, the window shows the number of occurrences located for that word or phrase in each of the translations.  That’s very useful information because if you want to locate the highest number of occurrences, you can select the translation that contains the greatest number of occurrences.  Once you have selected the text or phrase you want, you can click on the copy button or just highlight the piece of text, then paste onto an editor or wordprocessor.

If you are a pastor who does research and exegesis, this bible software will be very useful. I have found myself using this more and more each day and week and do not think I could be as efficient without BibleWorks8. It is a real time-saver.

I have been trying to learn this software as I do my exegesis each week. I am not so familiar with other bible software so I hope to be able to learn more about other features in BibleWorks8 as I go along.  I will blog about its other features  in a future post.