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Archive for April, 2018


The third part of Organic Outreach for Churches by Kevin Harney is called The Hands of Your Congregation. It is only two chapters long.

“As our hearts grow healthy, we can engage our minds and think deeply about ways that a church can take the good news of Jesus to the world. … Once our hearts and minds have connected with the outreach vision of God, it’s now time for our hands to get active.”

He begins the section with the “The Two-Degree Rule” or The Power of Vectoring. He points out that most churches, if left to themselves, will focus on themselves. The resources of time, money, gifts and abilities will be invested in those who are already part of the congregation. People want their needs met. I don’t blame them. The problem is that people often confuse wants with needs. American Christians struggle with consumerism. They shop for churches that meet their needs rather than being concerned with faithfulness to the Scriptures in teaching (orthodoxy) and practice (orthopraxy) as well as love. Since we are still sinners, we will struggle with selfishness.

The Two-Degree Rule comes into play in light of this.

“The Two-Degree Rule involves identifying what we are already doing for those who are a part of the church and then finding creative ways to vector this activity into our community to engage unbelievers. It’s taking what we are already doing to care for, equip, and minister to our church family and giving it an evangelistic focus.”

Fellow RTS grad Ken Priddy advocated for something similar in his Turn Around Churches material for revitalization. For him it was making sure the gospel is a part of everything you do. If your church has a marriage seminar, you invite non-Christians. You don’t have to dumb it down, but you need to acknowledge that not everyone present may believe. They now have an opportunity to engage and be engaged by Christianity.

This means that not only should each ministry have an outward focus, but all activities should have an outward focus. You aren’t necessarily adding activities, but you are seeing them as part of the outreach strategy. But sometimes this means taking our activities outside of our space, our facilities.

Harney gives an example of a church expanding its meals ministry to people outside the church. They began to serve the people they knew who had health issues, or new babies etc. They brought meals to unchurched people as signs of the love of Christ for sinners.

“It is not about starting new ministries with new volunteers and additional resources. It’s simply taking what you’re already doing, something that is natural and normal, organic to the life of your church, and extending it to the people in your community.”

He encourages churches to think bigger, promote more widely and take action. This can be challenging for churches of 100 or under people. But it is worth considering or you will stay stuck.

The second chapter is the Value of Innovation. I was not as wild about this chapter. It seemed to prize (exalt?) innovation. I guess the question is, what is innovation? If it is a new way to fulfill a biblical mandate, I am good with it. We can get set in our ways. But sometimes we can also make an idol of being on the cutting edge and feel the need to “fit in” or keep up with culture.

This is a hard balance. We are to be different than the culture around us. I’m of the opinion that our worship services shouldn’t be confused with rock concerts. That’s actually not innovation but mimicry.

One of his examples was interrupting the worship service for time to mingle and grab coffee, and extended form of “Greet the family” or “pass the peace”. This church loved it. I’ve spoken to others who visited churches that did this and hated it. This innovation helped them grow numerically, but does that alone make it a good innovation? The standard isn’t “does it work?” which is pragmatism. We have a responsibility to measure things by the Scriptures, particularly if we embrace the Regulative Principle of Worship. Harney mentions biblical norms earlier in the book, but it would be great if he brought that back to have appropriate boundaries for innovation.

“Innovation involves trying things. It also means there are times for certain programs, events, and activities to end.”

There is some wisdom here. Some programs, events or activities have a shelf life. That same church ended up ending their extended break during worship to have a continental breakfast before worship each week. Programs, events and activities can become ineffective in fulfilling biblical mandates. Perhaps they are an inefficient use of resources (which can change over time). Churches do tend to stick with things that are perceived to be successful. They become “tradition”. And traditions die hard. A helpful question he didn’t ask was “how can we fulfill this biblical mandate better?” This helps us to see what we should be doing, and finding the best legitimate way for us to do it. Too often the conversation becomes “what do we want to do.”

Bottom line is that this was another mixed section. There were some helpful thoughts and some that needed clarification and qualification at the bare minimum.

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9780801019449Around the turn of the millennium I read Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence. This is a subject I’ve wanted to think about more, but never seem to get to. The kids’ movie, Inside Out, is an application of the theory to a young girl’s life as she deals with loss after moving across country for her father’s new job. I’ve pondered this as a parent and a pastor who sees many struggle with a lack of emotional intelligence (EQ).

Aubrey Malphurs, a seminary professor who has written a number of books on church planting and leadership, has released a new book entitled Developing Emotionally Mature Leaders. I thought this would potentially be a good resource as I hope to develop greater EQ among our congregation’s leaders.

Malphurs wrote this book because he saw many gifted students leave for the mission field or church planting to return beaten because the team “couldn’t get along.” He believes that greater EQ would help these team members address the conflicts which arise in a much healthier way so those missions could continue and thrive.

“Simply stated, the purpose of this book is to come up with a process or pathway that challenges Christian leaders to become more away of, understand, and manage their emotions and those of others so that they can be emotionally mature leaders who relate well with and truly inspire their followers.”

Simply stated, the purpose of his book is addressed from page 99 onward. That is about 42 pages addressing his model for development followed by about 60 pages of appendices with various exercises.

Part 1 is three short (!) chapters (34 pages total, with lots of white space and questions at the end of each chapter) which introduce EQ. In some ways it reads like a syllabus. It conveys a brief history of EQ and conveys the importance of EQ, particularly among leaders. IQ deals with how you learn. EQ is about how you relate. Successful leaders are able to learn and relate well. There isn’t much to say about this section except that you get the feeling that this isn’t necessarily a unified theory. There are some disagreements in the field which become more apparent in Part 2.

“I define emotional intelligence as an awareness of our emotions and the emotions of others around us so that we can handle well our emotions and theirs (especially the harmful ones), with the result that we relate in a Christlike manner with those within or outside the body of faith.”

Part 2 helps people to understand EQ. He defines it, defines emotions, lays out the primary core emotions and then puts forth a biblical theology of emotions. This is the heart of the book which prepares you for his own model for assessment and development. Here we see the differences the theories have with regard to core emotions. They are kind of slippery, those emotions.

Malphurs brings us into the nature vs. nurture debate. Some theorists lean toward nature (so if you don’t have it, forget about having it) and others toward nurture. He fails to conclusively address this. He says it is perhaps both but doesn’t explain why. I found this to be a frequent problem with the book: he makes assertions but doesn’t provide any sufficient rationale for those assertions.

He also mentions that emotions shouldn’t be confused with temperament, moods, IQ, and feelings. He covers this in a page. I’m all for succinct but this is too brief since this seems to confuse people. They need some hooks to hang the information.  He then moves on to the next quagmire.

“However, emotion is one of the most difficult concepts in psychology to define and understand completely. … I define an emotion as a unique, unplanned urge to love, hate, or express some other feeling that happens subjectively, subconsciously, or physiologically and is directed externally toward a person or thing.”

As a soft science, psychology can be more difficult to express and quantify. I have a degree in counseling, I get it. But in theology, another “soft science” if you will, we make distinctions. It is all about distinctions. Malphurs appears to consistently contradict himself, perhaps because he’s not making distinctions. Emotions are different from feelings (chapter 4) but … we see here that they are connected somehow since they are the urge to express a feeling. Quagmire. He doesn’t really differentiate beyond feelings are physiological as opposed to mental though he brings that into his definition. He is less than clear on this, as well as the difference between an attribute or an emotion. Attributes always exist, while emotions (the root of feelings?) change. He thinks love is a core emotion (an unplanned urge), but also calls it an attribute. Later he writes “Anger is an attribute of God.” and “Anger is an attribute of Christ.” So, God is characterized by anger? I really struggled with this section since he appears to confuse/conflate categories. In his chapters on a biblical theology of emotions he repeatedly does this and never really grapples with divine simplicity and impassability as well as possible anthropomorphisms. He simply calls those who minimize emotions Christian stoics. There is more theology that needed to be done here, but once again he simply makes assertions without proving his point.

Some of his polarities seem off as well. “Hope is the opposite of fear.” I tend to see hope as the opposite of despair which is quite different from fear. Malphurs seems to create more confusion than clarity on these issues.

When he got to his model I noticed another glaring weakness: he neither addresses nor even mentions Ken Sande’s work on relational wisdom. I became aware of Sande’s work in this area a few years ago, so surely this newly published work should mention it particularly since he mentions a variety of secular theorists and tools. Malphur’s model has 4 skills, while Sande’s has 6. The difference? Sande brings in God explicitly so that we evaluate our emotions and how we manage them in light of how God responds to such circumstances. Malphur’s model has some use, but since the book intends to transform ministry, this missing piece would seem essential. It also provides a grounding factor to escape subjectivity regarding our emotions. How do I know if they are helpful/unhelpful, appropriate/inappropriate unless there is some standard outside of myself? God is the one who speaks to that and we should be skilled in discerning that too.

I wanted great things from this book. Perhaps my expectations were too high. But there were some serious flaws in this book. At times there are conflicting statements (at least on the surface, but he doesn’t clarify), there are many unproven assertions, some straw man arguments and serious theological gaps. He seemed bent on getting to his model and cut to the chase. I understand that leaders tend to avoid long books, but to adequately develop a skill you need to adequately understand some theory. Theory got the short end of the stick here, making the skills questionable as well.

[I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of review.]

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Sometimes the question of whether or not we should use unleavened bread in communion arises. Our Session addressed the question recently.

Here are some of the common reasons given for using unleavened bread in communion.

  1. “Unleavened” bread is mentioned 62 times, not exclusively in connection with Passover aka the Feast of Unleavened Bread. No leavened bread was to be used in the Passover.
  2. Jesus and the disciples were celebrating the Passover, using unleavened bread, when the Lord’s Supper was instituted.
  3. Tradition may have overridden God’s Word in permitting leavened bread to be used.
  4. Scripture never says to use leavened bread.
  5. No teacher or pastor promotes partaking of leavened bread.
  6. Leaven has a negative symbolical overtone. Since it seems to symbolize sin how can we use it to celebrate the Lord’s Table.

 

In Response:

  1. Leavened Bread was Only Prohibited During Passover

Leavened bread should not be seen as a symbol of sin. It was permitted to be eaten 51 weeks a year. It is okay for us to sin 51 weeks a year?

The bread of the Presence, set on the table in the Tabernacle (Ex. 25) is not said to be unleavened. If it was a symbol of sin, would such leavened bread be permitted to serve as the bread of the Presence?

In Exodus 29, recounting the ordination of the priests, it is unclear if the bread mentioned in vv. 23 (one loaf of bread and one cake of bread made with oil, and one wafer out of the basket of unleavened bread that is before the Lord) is the same as that mentioned in vv. 2 (unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers smeared with oil). Both include bread, cakes and wafers. But vv. 2 indicates all of them are unleavened. In vv. 23 only the wafers are. Only bread, unqualified, is mentioned in vv. 32 & 34. This is clarified in Leviticus 8:26 which again mentions both.

26 and out of the basket of unleavened bread that was before the Lord he took one unleavened loaf and one loaf of bread with oil and one wafer and placed them on the pieces of fat and on the right thigh.

In Leviticus 7, thanksgiving offerings include unleavened bread, BUT peace offerings include leavened bread (vv. 13).

In Leviticus 23:17 bread baked with leaven is used in during the Feast of Weeks.

17 You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the Lord.

 

  1. Leaven is Not a Symbol of Evil

33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” Matthew 13 c.f. Luke 13:21

In this passage, we see that leaven is used positively in describing the kingdom of heaven. While many of the uses of “leaven” are negative, the overall use is figurative to indicate how a little of the matter at hand spreads to permeate the whole of a body. This is how it is used; sometimes negatively and sometimes positively. Therefore, leaven itself is not to be seen as evil. Its presence would not necessarily make the bread “unclean” for the purposes of the Lord’s Table.

 

  1. We Celebrate the Lord’s Supper, not the Passover.

1 Corinthians 5:6-8 indicates that Christ has fulfilled the Passover for us. It was a type of Christ. The shadow of Passover has been fulfilled and abrogated as part of the ceremonial law which governed worship in the Old Testament. Paul’s use of leaven/unleavened in the context is figurative rather than literal: malice & wickedness vs. sincerity & truth. He speaks not of the bread used, but of our attitudes in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (not Passover).

In 1 Corinthians 10:14ff we see Paul using the general word for “bread”. The flight from idolatry is also the flight from syncretism. His focus is on our unity in Christ as depicted in the Lord’s Supper.

In Luke 22:7 we see there is a word for “unleavened bread”. Paul could very well have used this in his letter to the Corinthians to clarify matters for these Gentile Christians.

In 1 Corinthians 11:23ff the general word for “bread” is used again in reference to their celebration of the Supper. Paul does not clarify this for his largely Gentile audience. Paul may have implicitly intended them to use unleavened bread as in the Jewish festival. However, he has previously told them the Passover was fulfilled in Christ. Paul once again seems less concerned with the elements used than how they celebrated it (the point of the passage is corrupt worship in Corinth).

 

  1. Our Confessional Documents Simply Say “Bread”

WSC Q 96: What is the Lord’s Supper?
A: The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.

 

WLC 168: What is the Lord’s Supper?

A: The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, his death is showed forth; and they that worthily communicate feed upon his body and blood, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace; have their union and communion with him confirmed; testify and renew their thankfulness, and engagement to God, and their mutual love and fellowship with each other, as members of the same mystical body.

 

WLC Q. 169: How has Christ appointed bread and wine to be given and received in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper?

A: Christ has appointed the ministers of his Word, in the administration of this sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, to set apart the bread and wine from common use, by the word of institution, thanksgiving, and prayer; to take and break the bread, and to give both the bread and the wine to the communicants: who are, by the same appointment, to take and eat the bread, and to drink the wine, in thankful remembrance that the body of Christ was broken and given, and his blood shed, for them.

 

  1. The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to declare his word of institution to the people; to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation. WCF, XXIX

 

  1. The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that, truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before. WCF, XXIX

 

  1. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense, and reason; overthrows the nature of the sacrament, and hath been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions; yea, of gross idolatries. WCF, XXIX

 

It is noteworthy that only one of the commentaries on the Westminster Standards and Heidelberg Catechism addresses this issue. Those not mentioning this include A.A. Hodge, Robert Shaw, R.C. Sproul, and Kevin DeYoung. G.I. Williamson does not address it in his volumes on the Shorter Catechism. In his volume on The Westminster Confession of Faith he writes:

“It is our conviction that when the Lord instituted the sacrament he used unleavened bread and fermented wine. … And with this evidence agrees the known practice of the ancient Church, in which unleavened bread and fermented wine were used.

“However, we would not argue that the sacrament cannot be valid without unleavened bread and fermented wine. We can readily envision circumstances under which it might be necessary to use either leavened bread, or grape juice, or even both. Though technically irregular, we would not maintain that the sacrament may not be observe under such conditions. Even those who ordinarily use leavened bread and grape juice out of mere convenience we will not condemn. But if the decision to use grape juice instead of win is based on the influence of the Temperance Movement, we must regard this as seriously unbiblical.” (pp. 222)

 

  1. Response from Church History:

Since church history was mentioned we thought it pertinent to include the views of Martin Luther and John Calvin, two of the most influential Reformers. Their views are not authoritative, but rather helpful for us.

One of Luther’s objections to the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation was that they no longer served bread and wine. Luther held to the view that we should use bread and wine in obedience to Christ’s institution of the Supper. In culture where bread and/or wine are available (like ours, but not some islands in the Pacific for instance) they should be used. We should not celebrate it with pizza (though it includes bread) and Coke. Luther did not specify that unleavened bread should be used.

“According to Luther, the miracle is that Christ, in his human body and blood, becomes present in, under, and through the bread and wine. There is not a change of elements, but an addition to them.” R.C. Sproul[1]

Shifting to Calvin:

“Furthermore, Satan, to deprive the church of this inestimable treasure, has long since spread clouds, and afterward, to obscure this light, has raised quarrels and conflicts to estrange the minds of simple folk from a taste for this sacred food, and also has tried the same trick in our own day.” John Calvin, Institutes IV, XVII, 1.

Calvin, in the above quote, warns about quarrels and conflicts which estrange people from the Table. Satan, he believes, often tries to keep people away due to secondary matters. Calvin affirms that the signs are bread and wine. He does not qualify them at this point. They are bread and wine, not rice cakes and sake or any other combination. (IV, XVII, 1, 3)

“Thus, when bread is given as a symbol of Christ’s body, we must at one grasp this comparison: as bread nourishes, sustains, and keeps the life of our body, so Christ’s body is the only food to invigorate and enliven our soul.” John Calvin, Institutes, IV, XVII, 3)

Calvin notes that the Supper sends us to the Cross, not to Passover except as much as Christ is the Lamb slain for us. The “thing signified” is of far greater importance for Calvin than the sign. As a result, he did not focus on the type of bread that is to be used.

Another aspect of church history we should consider is the practice of the church. It is not authoritative, but illustrative. Both John Hammett and Robert Letham note that the early church used leavened bread. Eventually the Roman Catholic Church began to shift to unleavened bread. Letham connects this with the development of transubstantiation. Leavened bread would create crumbs, and they did not want the physical body of Jesus to fall on the ground. The Anglican Church is the only Protestant church to continue to use unleavened bread. All of the others used leavened bread like the Eastern Church has for over a thousand years.

 

 

In his book Given for You, Keith Mathison, mentions a controversy involving Baptist theologian Stevens regarding the use of grape juice versus the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper. Stevens notes that this is similar to whether to use leavened or unleavened bread. Mathison rightly responds that leavened bread is still bread while grape juice isn’t wine (nor is wine simply juice). The Scriptures and our confessional documents simply say “bread” without any clarification or limitation.

Conclusion:

In light of the above reasons, we believe it is wise to affirm the view expressed by John Calvin.

“But as for the outward ceremony of the action- whether or not the believers take it in their hands, or divide it among themselves, or severally eat what has been given to each; whether they hand the cup back to the deacon or give it to the next person; whether the bread is leavened or unleavened; the wine red or white- it makes no difference. There things are indifferent, and left at the church’s discretion.” Calvin, Institutes, IV, XVII, 43

Our conclusion is that we will continue to use leavened bread but also make an unleavened, gluten-free option available for those whose conscience holds that it should be unleavened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional Research:

 

Does Scripture Demand Unleavened Bread in the Lord’s Supper? By John S. Hammett

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/does-scripture-demand-unleavened-bread-in-the-lords-supper/

 

“While evidence as to the early church’s practice isn’t abundant, ordinary leavened bread seems to have been the norm. A difference gradually developed between East and West, though, with the East continuing to use leavened bread while the West adopted unleavened bread- a distinction between Orthodox and Roman Catholics that endures today.”

 

Most Protestant churches used leavened bread while the Church of England continued to use unleavened bread.

 

Argues that in places that don’t grow wheat or have bread, a common staple food can be used.

 

This is not a question of novelty, introducing a new sign, but recognizing that bread would be novel for them.

 

Given For You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper by Keith Mathison

“The bread used by Jesus was doubtless the unleavened bread of the Passover meal, as the wine he used was doubtless the fermented juice of the grape. But this does not mean that we must uof necessity use unleavened bread, nor does it mean that we cannot use the unfermented joice of the grape. … To insist on literalism would be tantamount to legalism.” Quoting William Stevens, pp. 306.

 

Response: “Finally, the comparison that Stevens makes between leavened and unleavened bread and wine and grape juice overlooks one big difference between the two. Leavened bread is still bread, but grape juice is not wine.” pp. 306

 

The Lord’s Supper: Eternal Word in Broken Bread by Robert Letham

“Following this, the evidence (such as we have) indicates the church in the early centuries universally used ordinary leavened bread. By the eighth century, the bread and wine had officially begin. To be identified with the body and blood of Christ. Since leavened breat was mor likely to crumble and so fragment the body of Christ, Rome required the use of unleavened bread. However, the East refused to follow, accusing Rome of Judaizing tendencies, and to this day it continues to use ordinary leavened bread.” pp. 54.

 

“However, the word consistently used in connection with the Lord’s Supper is the wider ranging term artos, meaning a small round loaf of ordinary bread.” pp. 54

 

“A.A. Hodge, in response to the question “What kind of bread is to be used in the sacrament …?” argues that this is not specified, nor rendered essential by the nature of the service.” pp. 54

 

“What is clear is that the elements to be used in the Last Supper are bread and wine (“the fermented juice of the grape … that wine and no other liquid is to be used is clear from the record of the institution”); but as to the exact brand of bread or wine we have no precise requirement.” pp. 55

 

 

[1] Sproul, Vol. 3, pp. 148.

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