Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pastor, Deacon, and....Executive Directors?

Our congregation is currently praying through God's leading regarding a second pastor.  We are not even getting applications quite yet as we are still in the stage of looking at what roles need to be filled.  As part of my research, I came across an article which contained the following statement:
In my mind even smaller congregations, who believe they’ve reached the point of adding a second pastor to the staff, really ought to think about multiplying the ministry of their current pastor and bringing on an executive director. This role can free up the pastor from all the things that pastors aren’t normally trained for and often times aren’t equipped to do well. The executive director executes the operation of the business of the church so that the pastor can be free to do the pastoral ministry.
I'm not opposed to individuals who serve in the church in the area of administration.  We have a full time secretary who handles many of these duties. But the troubling thing about that quote is how easily the American church invents biblical leadership 'offices'.  Sadly, but perhaps typically, the article from which this quote is gleaned doesn't contain a single bible reference.  

The New Testament already has a plan in place for individuals to come alongside the elders and take off their shoulders important, but time-consuming ministry tasks.  Acts 6 gives an account of the church appointing deacons (literally, 'servants') who were tasked with leading essential ministries.  Later in the New Testament, Paul gives us some of the spiritual qualifications of these men.  To Paul (and the church in Acts 6), this was an important decision that was not to be taken lightly.

Can a church have a full-time deacon?  Of course, just like most churches have at least one full-time elder.  We just need to make sure we pattern our church government after biblical models of leadership, and not worldly ones.  When we survey the typical mega-church leadership pattern, I'm afraid we find something that looks more like Professional Sports programs or Corporations.

But we shouldn't only lay blame at the feet of mega-churches. I'm afraid we (as Evangelicals) lost this battle years ago when we allowed ourselves to be influenced by the requirements and standards of Robert's Rules of Order and even the IRS.  How many churches 'elect' a whole host of positions that have no scriptural warrant? Yes, yes...many of these positions are valuable; but what strikes me as odd is when someone asks whether or not position X is biblically based.  More often than not the other person will look at you  as if you have two heads.  They will usually respond, "of course we need Position X, Robert's Rules requires it!".  When our church government is virtually identical to our condo association meetings, we should realize there is a problem.  

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why did God create the world?

Q. Why did God create the world?

A. Scripture tells us that creation occurred because of the will of God (“… by your will they existed and were created” Rev 4:11b), but why did God "will" (e.g. 'desire') to create in the first place?  Herman Bavinck, quoting Augustine, writes, “to the question of why things exist and are as they are, there is no other and deeper answer than that God willed it. If someone should then ask ‘why did God will it?’ he is asking for something that is greater than the will of God, but nothing greater can be found.”[1]

I understand the frustration of these two men regarding this question.  We cannot know the full mind of God, and there are important questions that we may never have answered.  However, I do think Scripture answers this particular question. [2]

What is interesting is how Christians have a tendency to answer this question in a self-centered way.  Even good and faithful men can fall into this trap.  Tertullian, the early church theologian and pastor, once wrote that "God made the world not for himself but for man."[3]  Athanasias, the vigorous defender of the doctrine of Christ, said that God "desires all to exist as objects of His loving-kindness."[4]  While those statements are true, they do not express the chief purpose for which mankind was created.  Today ungodly men make even bolder claims, even going so far as to claim that our happiness and blessing is the main reason for our existence.  Bavinck complained that in his day many made “man his own end and all else, including God, only a means” to that end.[5]  While America may not have invented the Health-and-Wealth perversion of the Gospel, we have certainly peddled it with unmatched zeal.  Don't misunderstand, I firmly believe that God desires our happiness--but there is something that He desires far above that.

The chief purpose of creation—including humanity—is to glorify God. In Isaiah 43:7 God refers to mankind as those “whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Even the physical creation shares in this praise as “the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). In Romans Paul describes God as the source, means, and purpose of creation, stating that from him and through him and to him are all things, to him be glory forever” (Romans 11:36). The first principle of our theology and life in God must be to see that His glory is made supreme.

Protagorus, the ancient Greek Philosopher, once said "man is the measure of all things".  Sadly, many Christians hold to a way of life that has much more in common with pagan philosophy than biblical revelation.

[1] Words in italics are from Augustine, De Gen contra Manich I.2. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: vol 2, 430.
[2] So does Bavinck and Augustine, as they both offered similar answers to what I have provided.
[3] Tertullian, Against Marcion I, 43; Against Praxeas 5.
[4] Athanasius, Contra gentes 41.
[5] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: vol 2, 432.