The Cost of Leadership (Nick Kennicott)

In the business world, there’s regular talk of building the right team and how to woo the right people in order to steer the ship when current commitments seem to be hindering production. With the right relationships and the right amount of money, business gurus tell us that it’s possible to put together a team of leaders that is equivalent to the five starters for the Golden State Warriors and their entire bench! Sadly, the same logic is applied by many local churches. Though it may not be evident at first, the fall out of such an approach is detrimental to the life of the church. People will overlook a man’s angry rants in the boardroom or vitriolic attacks on co-workers because of what he offers in a fortune 500 company (after all, isn’t that what makes him successful?); however, God will not allow the church to thrive in a spiritually healthy way if its members overlook a lack of biblical qualifications because a man possesses some other seemingly valuable gift set.The Bible gives exceptionally clear guidelines as to what qualifies a man to hold the office of elder or deacon in a local church. In his letters to both Timothy (1 Timothy 3:1-13) and Titus (Titus 1:5-9), the Apostle Paul set out very clear character and leadership qualities that mark a man off as being fit to be set apart to fill the office of elder (pastor) or deacon.

Although the biblical qualifications are quite straightforward, there are two ways that many churches have abandoned what God has said about biblical order and leadership and have inserted worldly qualifications into the equation.

Show Me the Money

There is a pastor of a very large church that has a monthly meeting with the church’s top 50 financial contributors. In those meetings, the pastor asks them to comment on the current trajectory of the church, solicits their opinions on future plans, and reminds them how important their continued financial commitment is to building their brand. Regardless of who the church has …

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Particular Baptists and the Need for Revival (Michael Haykin )

In the seventeenth century one of the most spiritually alive denominations in the British Isles were the Particular or Calvinistic Baptists.1 From the establishment in 1638 of their first congregation in London, they grew to the point, where, by 1660, there were some 150 congregations, and by 1689, there may well have been as many as three hundred across the British archipelago. What is amazing about this growth is that it came during a time of profound political turmoil, the British Civil Wars (1638-1651), and brutal repression (1660-1688). Religious toleration finally dawned in 1689, and the Baptists were now free to plant and build congregations that were duly registered with the state, though it was illegal for them to evangelize outside of their church buildings. The denomination as a whole, though, plateaued in its growth and, in some parts of England, actually went into decline. In 1715 there were around 220 Particular Baptist churches in England and Wales. By 1750 that number had declined to about 150. As Daniel Turner (1710-1798), pastor of Abingdon Baptist Church, wrote in 1769 to his friend, Samuel Stennett (1727-1795), a Particular Baptist pastor in London:

“The Baptist Denomination… in my opinion is upon the Decline. Useful solid ministers are taken away, & few likely to fill up their places. Many churches are destitute. Useful learning is rather discouraged amongst us. A confident assurance goes farther with many, even well meaning people, than good sense, learning and piety.”2

Various reasons account for this declension. For example, since it was illegal for Baptists to engage in mass evangelism outside of their meeting- houses, their money and effort began to be poured into the erection of church buildings instead of evangelistic outreach. Moreover, prior to the erection of a meeting-house, services might be held at a variety of geographical locations and thus a congregation could have an impact over a wide area. But once the building wen…

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Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels (Guy Waters)

One does not have to preach, teach, or even read the New Testament for long in order to discover how steeped its authors are in the Old Testament. The OT surfaces on virtually every page of the NT. It serves a range of purposes, whether for witness to unbelief or for the instruction and guidance of the church. And it speaks with divine authority – like the NT, it is the very word of God.

One salutary trend in the last generation of the academic study of the NT has been a growing estimation of the place and importance of the OT to the NT. Students of the NT increasingly appreciate the degree to which the OT is woven into the warp and woof of the NT message. To attempt to read the NT independently of the OT is to misread the NT.

A pioneer in this branch of recent scholarship is Richard Hays, the George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School in Durham, NC. His Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (1989) invigorated the study of the apostle Paul’s use of the OT. His recent release, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels (2016), promises to do the same for the Four Gospels.

The substance of ESG consists of four chapters detailing the method and practice of each of the Four Evangelists in handling the Old Testament. Introductory and concluding chapters frame these four chapters. Although brief, these two chapters set forth the principles and methods that inform the book as a whole. As such, they merit particular attention.

Two terms characterize Hays’ understanding of the Evangelists’ handling of the OT writings. The first is “figuration.” The Gospels evidence what Hays, following Erich Auerbach, terms “figural interpretation.” What is “figural interpretation”? It is a correspondence between “two events or persons” that “can be discerned only after the second event has occurred and imparted a new pattern of significance to the first” (3). Hays distances figuration from “prediction” – “figural reading of the Bible need not presume that …

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Don’t Leave Those Kids Alone (Gabriel Williams)

Because of the obsession of what has been called “youth culture,” it has been said that 1 Timothy 4:12 (“Let no one despite you for your youth…”) may be the most incomprehensible passage in our modern American culture. A cursory look at our culture (such as our clothing selections, diet regimens, and social media accounts) easily demonstrates the infatuation with youthfulness. However, I think this there is an entire book of the Bible that is incomprehensible in our culture: the book of Proverbs. Consider the opening passages of Proverbs:

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching; Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head (Proverbs 1:8-9).My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding…(Proverbs 2:1-2).My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments. For length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart (Proverbs 3:1-3).Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding, for I give you sound teaching; Do not abandon my instruction (Proverbs 4:1-3).

There are many more passages that can be added here, but there is a constant theme which runs through the pages of Proverbs – namely the follies of youth. Proverbs clearly teaches two important truths for our modern culture: (1) folly can only be cured by acquiring wisdom and (2) true wisdom cannot be acquired by ourselves in isolation, but it must be taught to us. Although wisdom is inseparable from knowledge, wisdom in Proverbs does not refer to the Greek conception of wisdom as mere philosophical theory. Wisdom involves masterful understanding and skill along with insight and discretion within ethical, moral, and spiritual spheres. This is why some have defined B…

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A Year After Orlando (Michael Aitcheson)

As is true of September 11, June 12 is a date in American history that elicits a miasma of emotions. Just one year ago today, one the most tragic mass shootings on American soil took place. The target was clear–the “LGBT” community. It garnered the attention of the world from the most notable to the most obscure of media outlets. It elicited responses that put on display the best and worst of humanity. A year later, it still populates the mind of many especially in Orlando, as services of reflections, lament, and hope saturate our city. As a local church planter in downtown Orlando (SODO) which meets right down the street from the blood stained side walks of “PULSE” (a church which had members witness people running passed their house for dear life, and which meets people only steps away for coffee), my mind is still preoccupied with this awful tragedy. The matter is so complex. My heart breaks for the loss of innocent life regardless of one’s sexual orientation; yet, I am accountable to present the biblical view of sexuality which doesn’t accord with many who were most affected by the “Pulse” tragedy namely, the “LGBT” community. Among the many questions prompted by the event was “how should we as Christians engage members of this community?” So, one year later I offer my reflections and what I hope to be encouraging thoughts on how to move toward our “LGBT” neighbors.

Following news of the tragedy I gathered with a group of local pastors to prayer. Afterward, a few of us drove over to ground zero to listen, learn and pray. Our hope was to gain a better understanding of the tragedy, meet someone directly impacted and discern how we can be better ministers of the Gospel to our city. Our findings were sad, eye opening, and hopeful.

Upon arrival to ground zero, we prayed with law enforcement then proceeded to a location within eye distance of “Pulse” only separated by Orange Avenue, Einstein Bagel, a house, and yellow crime scene tape. It …

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Visit the Alliance booth at PCA General Assembly (Robert Brady)

Are you planning on attending the PCA General Assembly June 12-16 in Greensboro, NC? Stop by the Alliance booth (#3605) to say hello, find out what’s new, and to receive free audio from Liam Goligher, Bible teacher on the Alliance’s No Falling Word broadcast….

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reformation21 is the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting reformation21 and the mission of the Alliance. Please donate here.

Self-Care or Sabbath? (Brian Mesimer)

A recent NPR article profiled what it called “the millennial obsession with self-care.”1 Apparently, the millennial generation is engaging in the practice of self-care with a surprising frequency and intensity that a multi-billion dollar industry has been built up around it. Yet what is “self-care?” The concept itself is ambiguous at best and can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The general idea seems to be that we can enhance our psychological health by engaging in certain activities which bring us peace. Christian leaders should not be surprised to find themselves initially uncomfortable with this term. However, it may just be that our initial concern is really hiding a far more primal reaction.Perhaps this concern comes from a confusion of how to balance the terms “self” and “care” in the Christian life. When connected with a hyphen, this word seem to challenge the very heart of the message of Jesus. On the one hand, Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Bearing a Roman execution stake doesn’t seem like it has a lot to do with taking time off. On the other hand, Jesus calls us to care for others, especially the needy and the poor. Who are we to orient this care towards ourselves when others around us so obviously need it? It is also worth asking whether behind our revulsion to self-care is also a bit of guilt as well–guilt for overworking and avoiding our own rest as mandated by the Lord.Suffice it to say many Christians have a complicated relationship with the psychological concept of self-care. So it’s understandable why many Christians reject the idea outright. And yet other Christians, particularly younger ones, seem to live by self-care like it’s their own personal liturgy. What then should our orientation be towards it? What we need is a biblical word on the matter. Enter a journeyman prophet named Elijah.We must be careful not to read too much into the story of Elijah in the wilderness …

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Sexual Identity Conference (Nick Batzig)

Our friends at Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, GA are hosting a conference with Rosaria Butterfield this Friday night. The theme of the conference is “Sexual Identity and Union with Christ.” There will be a Q&A time after her talk. On Saturday morning, June 19 at 9:00 am, the topic “Hospitality is Spiritual Warfare” with be discussed with a time for Q&A following the talk. The Saturday morning meeting is only opened to women registrants. There will be a luncheon for the ladies following the meeting for a charge of $15.00 for those ladies who have preregistered. Independent Pres. is requesting that you register if you plan to attend these talks and/or the women’s luncheon. Registration can be done on-line by visiting their website, where you will find a link for the conference….

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Justifying a Non-Repeatable Justification (Nick Batzig)

As there has been no small debate in recent decades over the doctrine of justification, I was delighted to come across a treatment of the once-for-all nature of justification in Geerhardus Vos’ Reformed Dogmatics. Having introduced the subject by explaining that the Roman Catholic church conflates justification and sanctification with it’s doctrine of a first and second justification, Vos explained that even within the Reformed tradition there have been those who have denied that justification was a once-for-all, non-repeatable act. Some within the Reformed tradition, he acknowledged, “think that justification repeatedly follows each confession of sin.” With these aberrant views in the background of his treatment, Vos went on to defend the majority Reformed view that “justification is an actus individuus et simul totus, that is, an indivisible act that occurs only once” by setting out six (typically brilliant) reasons why we must hold this view. Vos’ reasons for the belief that justification is non-repeatable are as follows:”1. Scripture itself nowhere says that the judicial act of God, which it calls justification, would be capable of repetition. Rather, it always presents justification as occurring at one point in time. As there is one predestination, one calling, one glorification, so there is also only one justification, and this stands between the other acts of the order of salvation (Rom 8:30), of which it is certain and generally agreed that they occur but once. 2. The idea of sonship implies that we cannot lose the state of justification once we have obtained it. A son can certainly sin and transgress against his father, but he does not therefore cease to be a son. By adoption as children, the legal position of believers in relation to God is loosed once for all from their own doing and working. Note: not their moral position but their legal position. A believer remains under the moral law, and for him every transgression of it is sin, which m…

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Cruciform Suffering (Daniel Timmer)

The fact that the incarnate Son of God “learned obedience” (Heb. 5:8) is an essential aspect of Jesus’ human nature and so is indispensable to sound Christology and soteriology. Apart from the cross itself, the clearest example we have of this “learning” is probably found in the Synoptic accounts of our Lord’s prayer in Gethsemane (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22). While Jesus’ obedience is of unparalleled import for our justification, his example of submitting to his Father’s will and so learning obedience through suffering is also a unique model for our sanctification, the goal of which is nothing less than Christ-conformity.

The Gospel accounts of this prayer show Jesus’ desire to avoid the cup of the Father’s wrath against sin, but only if that can be done in accord with his Father’s will. While this raises some interesting theological questions, the Synoptics give more attention to the subjective or experiential facet of Jesus’ prayer. Similarly, our personal appropriation of the text merits serious reflection, not least because submitting one’s will to God’s when that means accepting suffering involves nothing less than putting to death the remnants of the old man (Mark 8:34-35).

Although Jesus is the supreme example of learning obedience through suffering, the Gospel accounts do not provide a detailed analysis of how this learning took place. For that reason, and because the Old Testament figure of Job exhibits both similarities and differences with respect to Jesus’ example, we turn first to the Book of Job before returning to the Gospels (and to the gospel) in order to reflect on how we might imitate Christ in the way that he learned obedience.

Job is clearly a dynamic character in the book that bears his name. At the beginning and end of his suffering, Job accepted the mysterious providence of his trial, trusting firmly in God’s wisdom and justice. The narrator affirms twice that at the outset of his trials Job’s responses to his suffering were without sin…

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reformation21 is the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting reformation21 and the mission of the Alliance. Please donate here.