Laura over at Enough Light posted her 2012 top posts and highlighted this gem of a post, Does Your Church Make People Jump Through Hoops? Stop it!. She writes on a very important topic – the life and health of the church. I would encourage you to read it. The thrust of the argument is how newcomers are expected to jump through hoops to get on board. Now, no church or its leadership will confess to this directly. But it does come out in subtle ways or maybe not so subtle. The goal is to bring people on board. So the visitor is expected to join the body. Once officially joined, there is the expectation of participation. The participation of course, should contribute to the vision and mission of what that local assemblies’ leadership has prescribed for the church to do. Therefore, when individuals come into the fold, the way they fit in is to do as prescribed. In this scenario the visitor/newcomer is seen as a commodity to make the church strong rather than a vital member of the body based on their faith.
I believe this to be a common scenario in today’s contemporary evangelical church, particularly independent, non-denominational churches. But there is something under the hood that motivates this type of corporate structure where people only feel valuable according to what they do, whether it be to join this or that ministry or small group or other defined obligations. Here’s what I think is going on. The contemporary church by and large has operated under the premise of what they do as opposed to who they are. Put differently, the contemporary church has defined itself by what it does instead of who it is, the body of Christ united together to grow itself up together in love (Ephesians 4:16). Of course there are exceptions. But the more emphasis that is placed on the definition of the church being what it does, the more will be expected of individual members to jump on board in order to fulfill the church’s definition. Continue reading
Despite being married before, I have never experienced a healthy, godly, mutually loving partnership with Christ at the center. Widowed since 2004, my entrance into Dallas and seminary in 2008 was met with an intense desire for join forces with one whom shared the same gospel-centered passions and understood what it meant to love another person.
Now for those who don’t know the full extent of my personal history, there can only be shallow presuppositions concerning this desire. To be sure, there are personal reasons namely to experience human love. In a way, it is a restoration of sorts.
But most importantly, when I consider Ephesians 5:22-33, I see marriage as a reflection of Christ and his church. A good, strong partnership in the Lord is meant to point to Christ and demonstrate the gospel in action. I can’t help but see this as a marvelously, beautiful thing.
I came across this post today What is Unique about Marriage that Makes it a Forum Ministry. I think Paul Tripp really summed up my thoughts on the subject well;
When you think of the marriage between a man and a woman who are believers as being a forum for great commission ministry there are a couple things that come to mind. If you have these two sinners who by nature are self sovereigns who have little interest in doing anything in life, but building their own kingdom…And if they’re now living in a relationship of real unity, real love, willing self sacrifice, you’re seeing the Kingdom come. It has come in this marriage. There are few places where you can better invite people in to see the King at work and see how His Kingdom operates more than a marriage, because typically you don’t have unity, understanding and love.
It’s why I wrote here why I do not want a “good” man but a gospel centered man who is not concerned with building up his own kingdom. Sure there are the realities of two imperfect people co-existing and sorting through differences. But a kingdom focus points to a greater reality.
Still praying. Lord willing
I mused when I saw this photo yesterday on Facebook of incoming DTS students
That was me four years ago. What enthusiasm I had. I was so thrilled to be here. I couldn’t believe that I was embarking on such a journey. Little did I know what I’d be stepping into that would begin to chip away at that naive enthusiasm. No need to rehash since I’ve written about here and here and touched on it here.
Well, that’s been just my journey. The one thing I’ve discovered is that the Lord carves out a unique seminary experience…good, bad and/or the ugly for each one. From what I’ve experienced?
- Some will find love and marriage
- Some will encounter marital difficulty
- Some will find unexpected ministry opportunities
- Some will lose loved ones
- Some will encounter health issues
- Some will have great financial difficulty
- Some will have their ministry focus shifted
- Some will be confronted with deep rooted issues
- Some will have cherished doctrines deeply challenged
- Some will change church affiliations
- Some will withdraw for various reasons
- Some will encounter a crisis of faith
- Many will develop life-long friendships
- And many will get weary in the process
….And the list goes on
Whatever the case may be for these smiling faces, they are embarking on a journey with twists and turns that will probably surprise most if not all of them. But it too is all part of the ministry training process, too. They’re on the road to somewhere. And even if it may not be what they expected, the Lord will see that they get there. And he will do the same for those of us who have lost that initial enthusiasm.