links to 5 helpful articles

1. What is the Gospel? [essential reading]

“Christ crucified for sinners is the divine ‘plan’ of salvation.”

2. The Courage and Folly of a War That Left Indelible Scars

“Seconds before an armistice formally ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, Pvt. Henry Nicholas Gunther, an American soldier from Baltimore, mounted a final, one-man charge against a German machine-gun nest in northeastern France. The German gunners … tried to wave him away, but he ran on, only to perish in a burst of heavy automatic fire — the last soldier of any nationality to die in the conflict — at 10.59 a.m. local time. One minute later, under the terms of an armistice signed about six hours earlier, the so-called Great War, the ‘war to end all wars,’ was over, and the world was an altered place.”

3. If There’s No Church Growth Guarantee, Does It Even Matter What We Do?

“What matters is not how many people are sitting in our building on a Sunday, but how well they’re living on mission as a result of having been with us.”

4. Love Your Political Frenemies

“I still ache over the anguish of some and the bigotry of others, but this prayer discipline has chipped away at the parts of me tempted to reduce, write off, or wage war on some of those at the table. It has helped me surrender my personal agenda to Christ’s agenda—quite distinct from promoting my own agenda in the name of Christ. Prayer has helped me become better at discerning when to speak and when to be silent, what I should say and how I should say it. It has enabled me to break free of the tribal patterns of the world.”

5. In 1868, Two Nations Made a Treaty, the U.S. Broke It and Plains Indian Tribes are Still Seeking Justice

“… when gold was found in the Black Hills, the United States reneged on the agreement, redrawing the boundaries of the treaty, and confining the Sioux people — traditionally nomadic hunters — to a farming lifestyle on the reservation. It was a blatant abrogation that has been at the center of legal debate ever since.”

on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: April 26 – May 2

Among the things that happened this past week in the American Restoration Heritage history:

April 26

April 26, 1885 – Two months after her death at the age of fifty-three, a women’s missionary society in the Restoration Heritage today honors the memory of the first female editor of a paper within our tribe. Over the course of 20+ years, Marcia Melissa (Bassett) Goodwin had edited several papers: The Christian Monitor (the first paper among us designed exclusively for women), Mother’s Monitor, Ladies Christian Monitor, Christian Companion, and Missionary Tidings.

Marcia was married twice. Her first husband, Orson Rodolphus Colgrove, a sheriff, was murdered in 1869, the chief suspects in the case being the Ku Klux Klan. Her second husband, Elijah Goodwin, was a quite influential pioneer evangelistic preacher in our heritage in Indiana, well known for his skills in persuasion. And yet, Elijah struggled with how a lack of deep unity among us often impaired our witness. He once put it like this:

“We have said more on this subject than any other people during the last quarter of a century, and yet we do not exhibit to the world any more of that union than we ought.”

April 27

April 27, 1865 – Today, the worst maritime disaster in the history of the United States takes place on the flood-swollen Mississippi River and it’s all about greed. Some of those killed are of the Restoration Heritage, as are some of those who survive, and it is a family with deep roots in the Restoration Heritage that is instrumental in saving the lives of no small number of the survivors.

The U.S. government is offering money for safe passage of every Union soldier recently liberated from Confederate POW camps in the South to Northern soil. The amount offered is five dollars per enlisted man and ten dollars for each officer. The greed of a Union officer with a strong say as to the transport of the men, Lt. Colonel Reuben Hatch, and the Captain of the steamboat Sultana, J. Cass Mason, leads to the placement of 2,350 people (2,150 of them ex-POWs) on a craft rated to safely ferry less than 400. On this trip, literally every available square foot of room on the ship is occupied by human flesh.

During the trip up river, just a few miles north of Memphis, Tennessee, one of the Sultana‘s boilers, hastily patched up recently rather than truly repaired, explodes. The explosion of that boiler is quickly followed by the explosion of two more. As a result, whether due to the effects of the explosions, the ensuing fires, or by drowning in the waters of the mighty Mississippi, 1,800 of the 2,350 aboard die. Captain Mason is among the dead.

The vast majority of the ex-POWs aboard the Sultana are from states in which members of Restoration Heritage churches are numerous: Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Consequently, a number of the fatalities, as well as the survivors, are of our tribe. For example, we know that John C. Maddex of the U.S., 54th Indiana Infantry is one of those who survives today’s disaster and it is Maddex, who, years after the war, is a founding member of a Restoration Heritage church in Paynesville, Indiana.

While rescue efforts come to pass through the efforts of many, no small number of those who survive are saved through the efforts of members of a well-known Restoration Heritage family in that area, the Bartons, who are also married into another Restoration Heritage family, the Edmunds.

April 28

April 28, 1772Abner Jones, a man born today in Royalton (Worcester County), Massachusetts, reminds us to not be too smug about our religious ancestors. Those who comprised the leadership and membership of the Stone-Campbell Movement are anything but alone in attempts in the United Sates in the 1800’s to “restore primitive Christianity.” To leave man-made traditions and to seek Scripture alone as guide does not mean people will arrive at the same understanding of Scripture or the same practice of expression of Christian faith. The ministry of Abner Jones, an associate by the name of Elias Smith, and the “Christian Connection” alone is proof enough of the point.

In 1791, years before the Stone-Campbell Movement grows legs and in an entirely different neck of the woods (New England), Abner Jones takes up preaching. However, as he preaches, he seeks to be “just a Christian,” totally free and independent of denominational creeds, doctrines, and ties. In his quest to do such, Jones jettison’s his Calvinist upbringing, including such matters as unconditional election and predestination. He plants several churches and these churches establish ties with each other, becoming known simply as the “Christian Connection.” Elias Smith assists in the development of this ministry, but will eventually leave the Christian Connection in 1817 to join the Universalist faith.

In years to come, Christian Connection churches often sprout up in the same fields that Stone-Campbell churches are often found growing. However, while those of the Christian Connection share a number of things in common with the Stone-Campbell churches, matters both great and small, they differ enough that they do not unite. They both seek to be independent of man-made teaching and to be guided solely by Scripture, but they approach the process differently and so, arrive at different conclusions One example of difference is that Christian Connection churches are not minded to practice weekly communion, practicing quarterly observance instead, something Stone-Campbell churches cannot abide.

As time rolls on, the Christian Connection evolves. Ultimately, it merges with the Congregational Church in 1931 and then later with the Evangelical and Reformed Church in 1957, and so, comes to form the group known today as the United Church of Christ.

April 29

April 29, 1820 – Today, a man is born in New York who will come to offer the church a unique evangelistic tool, and it is the very production of this tool that perhaps reveals to us some of the state of mind of not just that man, but a large portion of a movement. The man’s name is Montgomery C. (“M.C.”) Tiers and he will become a preacher within the Restoration Heritage.

Remarkably, it is during the third year of the American Civil War (1864) that Tiers edits and publishes a 289 page book entitled The Christian Portrait Gallery: Consisting of Historical and Biographical Sketches and Photographic Portraits of Christian Preachers and Others. Of course, given the war, there would be no chance for such a work to originate in the South, much less for it to acquire any real success in terms of circulation there. This work is published in the North, in Cincinnati, Ohio, with expectations of its widest circulation being in the North.

Close to forty pages of text open the work and attempt to sketch with words something of what Restoration Heritage churches are about; what life as member of such a church is like. For example, the work contains the following snapshot of precisely how, as we say today, people “officially place membership” with a specific congregation:

“New Members

“As soon as expedient after immersion, the new disciple is expected to present himself to some particular congregation for membership; and he is received into the communion of the Church by the right hand of fellowship, presented by either one of the elders in behalf of the congregation, or by the entire membership in person. The latter is the usual method, but there are some exceptions in favor of the former.”

The textual portrait of Restoration Heritage church life is followed by pictures and textual abstracts of sixty preachers, none of whom are under the age of forty. Who to include, and who not to include, in such a work? Some of the preachers who make appearance are people we would expect to see, their names still instantly recognized by many today (e.g. – Alexander Campbell, Sr., Thomas Campbell, Walter Scott, Barton W. Stone, Sr., etc.). Naturally, others are figures not nearly so well remembered now (e.g. – A. Chatterton, George Elley, Almon B. Green, Eleazar Parmlay, etc.). Doing so politely, without naming names, Tiers notes in the book’s preface: “One or two well-known brethren, whose prominent positions and increasing influence are highly appreciated by the writer, as they are by brethren at large, have, after repeated importunities, ‘respectfully declined’ representation among ‘distinguished brethren.'”

I find Tiers’ book intriguing. Not so much for its content, but for its approach … and what it might be saying about the times in which the book appeared. Is it possible that Tiers’ book includes more pictures than Tiers intended to share? That is, is it simply an evangelistic tool best used in the hands of those who are a bit more well-to-do with those who, being yet to believe, are also a bit more well off in society (i.e. – a tool the well-heeled and/or prosperous can use to reach the skeptical prosperous)? Or does this book’s very existence also portray a growing desire on the part of Restoration Heritage members for more respectability in society, representing a distinct turn from standing against culture to a stance seeking more acceptance by it? Is there a growing restless in the Restoration Heritage, at least in the northern half of the country at that time, to make sure that those with whom they interact know that they are not composed of merely – to borrow a phrase from the KJV in Acts 4.13 – “unlearned and ignorant men?”

The work is clearly at pains at times to “dress up” the Heritage’s preachers in finer duds. For example, while “Raccoon” John Smith is included among the sixty, his nickname is not published, but reads instead (perhaps in our eyes today even worse!), “R***** John Smith.” And, in several remarks in the preface, Tiers is quite revealing, the following serving as an example:

“… this work is written with reference to its influence on the ‘uninformed’ world, rather than of the Church. I have desired to let the ‘world’ know, what I am entirely conscious is the fact, that the Gospel which we preach has not been received simply by the ignorant, illiterate, and rude of this generation, but that many of the highly-gifted and influential of our age have been constrained, by the weight of the evidence, to yield assent to its claims, and to devote themselves to ministry. Feeling conscious of this, I am willing and desirous that the character and extent of our success as a people shall be made known everywhere through the persons, lives, and characters of those who have been the instruments.”

Is such an approach a good one? Or is it one of the reasons some “well-known brethren … respectfully declined” to participate? We’re left to wonder, but it is not at all difficult to imagine the possibilities.

And so, we’re moved to ask today: can efforts to extend the good news of Christ to others actually be motivated by, and morph into, the bad news of the church seeking the world’s acceptance … and the church being utterly blind to it in all in the process? And if so, when and where exactly is the tipping point reached, and how can we discern its placement, lest we possibly go past the point of no return?

April 30

April 30, 1863 – Today, a preacher preaches a strong word that still needs to be heard.

“The rude and denunciatory style of political discussion, the irreverent and oft-times slanderous attacks on our rulers – such as the Bible will not allow to be employed against the devil himself* – ought to be religiously discountenanced. Prayer, earnest and affectionate, should be constantly offered for those in authority, particularly in these perilous times.”

So preached Isaac Errett today – a Thursday – to all assembled in a Restoration Heritage church building in Detroit, Michigan. Errett’s sermon is entitled “The Claims of Civil Government” and the occasion is the fact that today, by resolution of the U.S. Senate and by proclamation of the President, Abraham Lincoln, is a day “set apart … for National prayer and humiliation.” The proclamation reads:

“Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

“And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

“And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

“It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

“Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

“All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

“In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. …

“By the President: Abraham Lincoln

“William H. Seward, Secretary of State.”

* Jude 9-10

It must be remembered in our time, that at that time, in many quarters, not merely the South, Lincoln was anything but popular. Indeed, he was despised by many in the North. That revulsion and hatred will grow all the more bitter and intense the following year (1864) as Lincoln signs off on “total warfare” (i.e. – General Sherman’s infamous “March to the Sea“). Even the one who signed this proclamation with him, William Seward, frequently and vigorously – some might say viciously – disagreed with him and opposed him. One need only peruse the political cartoons of the time to get a feel for the sort of speech that was common on the street … the very sort of speech upon which Errett took careful aim and fired.

Wouldn’t you like to know how Errett’s words were received and if they drew any return fire? What sort of personal price, great or small, did Errett pay to say such, if any? I don’t know, though I do know his sermon is still in publication in paperback today. And wouldn’t you really like to know if anyone really changed their words and ways as a result of Errett’s sermon? But, God alone knows. I like to think that even if Errett had known ahead of time the worst possible scenario, that these words would fall on deaf ears and no one would make any change at all, he would still have proclaimed them.

And so, three questions come to mind. (1) Are we preachers today as quick, clear, and courageous as Errett to confront similar sin from our pulpit when we know that many of our people daily mock and revile President Barak Obama, and/or other government authorities? (2) If we heard such words in a sermon, could/would we truly hear them deeply, and then go on to change our spirit and speech? (3) Would we strongly encourage and support our preacher in speaking to us words of truth forthrightly, in love, on every subject, including this one?

May 1

* May 1, 1866 – The founding editor of what is to become the flagship publication of our heritage tells us why the paper exists.

Today, Tolbert Fanning reveals to us the driver behind the publication of the Gospel Advocate (GA). Fanning founded the GA and served as its editor from its start in 1855 until November 1861, at which time the Civil War caused it to shut down for a time. When the GA resumed publication in 1866, Fanning co-edited the paper with David Lipscomb. In the GA, Fanning tells us:

“The fact that we had not a single paper known to us that the Southern people could read without having their feelings wounded by political insinuations and slurs, had more to do with calling the Advocate into existence, than all other circumstances combined.”

* May 1, 1870 – Church raffles, lotteries, and auctions are innocent, harmless affairs, actually even helpful, to a church, right?

“Wrong!” says “C.C.L.” in an article appearing in The Millenial Harbinger under the title “Religious Fairs.” After a lengthy quotation of condemnation of such by a secular paper, C.C.L. adds his own remarks, some of which read:

“It is sad to think that with many Christian people, and in many churches, the scandalous exhibition of raffling, lotteries, mock auctions, or real ones, selling things often utterly useless or ten times their sale value, together with the endless, ridiculous maneuvers, chicaneries and trumperies, – are not in themselves sufficient to show the utter unfitness of such practices in the church, or for the purposes of the church of Christ. …

“It is the old strategy of the temptation in the wilderness over again – evermore repeated through the ages. Every ingenious device is to be borrowed from the world and used to make up for the deficiencies of the divine arrangements, in order to make religion more attractive and more successful than the New Testament order makes it. We see this all around, and often very near us. – We will not ‘assist,’ as the French say, that is, give our presence and countenance, at the unlawful marriage of the church and the world … or pray over it. We find daily more and more, that what is needed – we say we feel it, – is a strong, vigilant resistance against the besieging temptation of worldliness around the gates of the church.”

Who is C.C.L.? The man Alexander Campbell considered to be the finest student/scholar with whom he ever had dealings in his school, Bethany College: Charles Louis Loos.

May 2

May 2, 1611 – Which translation of the Bible is a preacher or teacher to use, and should its acceptance, or lack thereof, help determine the selection? Is there “a right one” and just who is to hold court to decide the matter?

Today, the version of the Bible that those of us with a few gray hairs have heard some of our fellow church members say “was good enough for Jesus and the apostles and so, should be good enough for us today,” makes its publishing debut.

One of the factors that helps the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) to ascend to dominance in the field is that it is deliberately translated for how it will sound when read aloud. That is, one of its translators’ foremost concerns is that it is worded in such a way as to strongly appeal to the ear. Further, the translators choose to utilize many words no longer commonly in use during their time (e.g. – “thou,” “sayeth,” etc.). Why? So as to help convey the impression that the Bible is indeed an old authority, lest their fresh rendering of it be perceived as “some new thing” and be rejected.

However, the KJV is largely rejected during its first few decades of existence; the older and well-established Geneva Bible is perceived as better than this new creation. However, the KJV eventually ascends to the translation throne and secures it from any potential rivals. Its reign is measured not in decades, but centuries.

Now language is a very fluid thing; it is constantly changing. And by 1826, the English language has changed a great deal since the time of the KJV’s first publication. Those of the Restoration Heritage are not immune to the effects of this change and so, when Alexander Campbell edits and publishes the New Testament known as the Living Oracles (LO), he does so largely out of frustration with how the KJV’s language has come to obscure the meaning of Scripture. But, similar to the KJV, the LO is not widely adopted by the rank-and file members of the Restoration Heritage, even though it is often utilized by preachers and respected church leaders. No small number of folks in the crowds and in the pews are somewhat suspicious of, even rebellious against, any change in which version of the Bible appears to hold sway.

One example will suffice. John Augustus Williams, an early chronicler of the experiences of pioneer preacher “Racoon” John Smith, tells us of some of the trials Smith faced – literally – because he dared to make use of something other than the KJV:

“For the mere reading of that book [LO] John Smith was arraigned before the North District Association in 1827. He was formally charged not only with reading it in his family, but actually quoting it from the pulpit. During the discussion of that serious charge, some of the good old preachers present declared King James’ Bible to be the only true word of God. John Smith in reply expressed his deep sympathy for the poor Dutch, who consequently had no word of God among them, and could not read it if they had. A prominent clergyman had, just before this, obtained a copy of the book, and, having read it, atoned for his offense by piously burning it to ashes.”

Some things never change – including the natural tendency to resist change.

links: this went thru my mind

Cinema, film & movies: The Uneven ‘Inspiration’ of Unbroken

Unbroken‘s Zamperini is brave, kind, stoic and tremendously longsuffering, but without his complex relationship with God, these are just words ripped from a motivational poster; pretty melodies with no real rhythm. … The phrase ‘the inspiring true story’ was made for just such a tale as Unbroken, and the film deserves to be seen. But it deserves a fuller, richer conversation as well. Few Americans have ever lived such an inspiring tale, from beginning to end. It’s just a shame that biopic glosses over the latter.”

Cuba & missions: Cuban Ministry

“Although no one knows at this point how the new relationship will work out, there is optimism among the ordinary citizens, [Tim] Archer said, based on conversations with people in Cuba. ‘They’re just out of their minds happy,’ said Archer, who is coordinator of Spanish-speaking ministries for the Herald of Truth. … Archer has made 18 trips to Cuba since 2006, the year he started work for the Herald of Truth, an evangelistic radio ministry started in 1952 by Church of Christ congregations in Abilene.”

Depression, discouragement & self-pity: How to Break the Bondage of Self-Pity

“The way to break the bondage of self-pity is to quit measuring how self is being treated.”

Google, Internet & search: 11 Google Tricks That Will Change the Way You Search

“Use quotes to search for an exact phrase. … Use an asterisk within quotes to specify unknown or variable words. … Use the minus sign to eliminate results containing certain words. … Search websites for keywords. … Search news archives going back to the mid-1880s. … Compare foods using vs.’ … Filter search results for recipes. … Use ‘DEFINE:’ to learn the meaning of words—slang included. … Tilt your screen by searching ’tilt.’ … Play Atari Breakout by searching it on Google Images. … Search images using images. … Press the mic icon on Google’s search bar, and say ‘flip a coin’ or ‘heads or tails’. … Press the mic icon on Google’s search bar, and say ‘give me a love quote’ or ‘I love you.’ …”

Greed, income inequality, money & wealth: What the 1% Don’t Want You to Know [essential reading]

“We’re seeing inequalities that will be transferred across generations. We are becoming very much the kind of society we imagined we’re nothing like.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anger, culture, morality, outrage & thinking: Addicted to Outrage

“I fear that outrage has become an addiction for many people of faith. I’m caused to wonder if certain endorphins are released when we feel anger over a just cause; an emotional, pseudo-spiritual ‘rush’ that just keeps us coming back for more. In order for us to feel ‘righteous,’ has it become essential that ‘indignation’ be an inseparable companion? ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers… twerkers.’ Reread the context of Luke 18:9-14 to be reminded of why Jesus told this parable.” The more I am consumed by moral outrage, the less time I have to dwell on those things that are ‘true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute; things that are excellent and worthy of praise,’ (Philippians 4:8).”

Community, generosity, greed, poverty, stinginess & wealth: As We Become Richer, Do We Become Stingier?

“…  the effects that wealth has on people: ‘We become more individualistic, less family and community oriented.’ … Greenfield’s findings and theories dovetail with a variety of other studies and research projects, including Robert Putnam’s 2000 book, Bowling Alone, which explores the decline in community relationships in the U.S.”

Faith, grace, law, OT, NT & works: Law and Grace, Faith and Works

“When we think that what Jesus did was substitute one written code for another, we fall into the trap that Paul condemned in the Galatian letter. When we depend on law, any kind of law, then we are no longer depending on grace.”

Fasting, peace, prayer this Saturday & Syria: A Fast for Peace September 7th [count me in, too; how about you?]

“… a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.”

Food stamps, poverty & the poor: On the Edge of Poverty, at the Center of a Debate on Food Stamps [required reading]

“No matter what Congress decides, benefits will be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires. Yet as lawmakers cast the fight in terms of spending, nonpartisan budget analysts and hunger relief advocates warn of a spike in ‘food insecurity’ among Americans who … ‘look like we are fine,’ but live on the edge of poverty, skipping meals and rationing food.”

Jesus, sin & sinners: * He Looked Like a Sinner; * Jesus is Not Mr. Rogers

* “Jesus didn’t look like a saint. Jesus didn’t look holy. He hung out with prostitutes and drank too much wine. He was a convicted criminal. He was given the death penalty. And he died under God’s curse. Jesus looked like a sinner.”

* “Jesus wasn’t always the nicest guy.”

Leadership, momentum & morale: 16 Practices that Reignite Momentum

“Working on positives more than negatives. Avoid taking the wind out of people’s sails.”

Singing: Love the Lord with All Your Voice

“Singing is a forgotten—but essential—spiritual discipline. … We might ask … why we could not simply speak the words of Scripture as if they were our own. What is gained by singing them? Just this: In song, we learn not just the content of the spiritual life, but something of its posture, inflection, and emotional disposition.”

Restoration Heritage & the Stone-Campbell Movement: Christian History Magazine Puts a Focus on Stone-Campbell Movement

“Restoration scholars Richard Hughes and Doug Foster served as advisers on the project and ‘provided a fair amount of content, along with other well-known authors/scholars in the movement’ … Download the full issue for free.”

elders: a closer look at their qualifications (4)

 

Are they giving and generous? Such a question must be asked of potential eldership candidates.

“… they should be … not greedy [aischrokerdes].” (1 Timothy 3.3 CEB)

“… supervisors should be without fault as God’s managers: they shouldn’t be … greedy [aischrokerdes].” (Titus 1.7 CEB)

To be sure, Timothy and Titus would have heard these directives with what they surely often had in mind when Paul wrote them: their opponents. Paul’s description of their opponents is scathing:

“They think that godliness is a way to make money! … But people who are trying to get rich fall into temptation. They are trapped by many stupid and harmful passions that plunge people into ruin and destruction. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some have wandered away from the faith and have impaled themselves with a lot of pain because they made money their goal.” (1 Timothy 6.5b,9-10 CEB)

“They teach what they shouldn’t to make money dishonestly.” (Titus 1.11 CEB)

Timothy and Titus’s opponents clearly had money, not ministry, as their reason for being and so, not surprisingly, also mismanaged their ill-gotten gain, resulting in their ever increasing spiral of destructiveness and self-destruction. They were the exact opposite of generous and giving, and so, were to be avoided.

Now just those who were to serve as elders in the churches with which Timothy and Titus ministered were not to be in it for the money the same must be true today. It must be asked of potential elders as to whether or not they: (a) are without fault as managers of what God has already given them and (b) if they are known to be greedy for, or with, anything.

These are questions that should be asked not only of those who could enter a church’s eldership, but a word existing elders should regularly ask of themselves, lest they become deceived into thinking they are immune to these temptations. Elders must resist serving with money for themselves as their motivation and must not be greedy for the power that comes from having control over money others have given.

“Don’t shepherd greedily [aischrokerdos], but do it eagerly.” (1 Peter 5.2b CEB)

Along a similar line, a church should ask itself: (c) does this potential elder candidate show hospitality?

We mustn’t forget that all Christians should be hospitable (philoxenos):

“Above all, show sincere love to each other, because love brings about the forgiveness of many sins. Open your homes [philoxenos] to each other without complaining. And serve each other according to the gift each person has received, as good managers of God’s diverse gifts.” (1 Peter 4.8-10 CEB)

And so, of course, an elder supervising a flock of Christians must be hospitable, an example to the flock of what it means to be such:

“… the church’s supervisor … should show hospitality [philoxenos] …” (1 Timothy 3.2 CEB)

“… they should show hospitality [philoxenos] …” (Titus 1.8 CEB)

But, what exactly did it mean to be hospitable in Paul’s time? What did being hospitable entail? Ben Witherington explains:

“… In Titus 1.8 there is the strong call for the elder to be a practitioner of good hospitality (literally a love of strangers/foreigners) … Part of this has to do with providing a rest stop with food and sleeping accommodations for traveling missionaries (1 Tim. 5.10). The inns of the Greco-Roman world were notoriously unhealthy and dangerous places to stay, especially if one was not prepared to blend in with the prevailing ribald behavior that went on in such places. Hospitality thus became a crucial means of helping the Word spread and be able to travel through regions of the Roman Empire without damage to or loss pf the messengers or to the message … Here in Titus, however, it would appear that Paul also has in mind the hospitality offered to fellow Christians who met in the elder’s or congregational patron’s house.

“We see the social networks being built and the role that hospitality for traveling missionaries plays in Titus 3.12-15. Hospitality did comport with those that the general society esteemed, and the practice of it gave Christians an opportunity to be welcoming to non-Christians and so show themselves not ‘enemies of society’ or haters of all things Greco-Roman. …

“Especially for an evangelistic religion that did not wish to be an exclusionary sect, but rather an inclusive one, the practice of this virtue was paramount.” (Letters & Homilies for Hellenized Christians, 1:115-116)

The early church, not having church buildings as we know them today, typically met in people’s homes. Such was the norm for the first three centuries of the church’s existence. Those who would serve as a church’s elders were often the same people who opened their homes for the church’s gatherings.

“He must be ‘hospitable’ (1 Tim. 3.2; Titus 1.8) because he hosted the church in his home for its meetings and received Christians from other places.” (Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today, p.325)

The eldership is no place for an individual that wants nothing to do with others except for what they can gain for themselves from others. They should be known for being the servant of others, freely sharing what is their own with others. And so you should ask: are those who would serve as elders known for their giving ways and generosity to others?

the tenth commandment

This coming Sunday morning (May 22) at MoSt Church most of our English-speaking adult Bible classes (9:00 a.m.) will study Rock Solid Self-Control. This is a study of the tenth of the Ten Commandments (“you shall not covet …”; Exodus 20:17; Deut. 5:21). Make good use of the following questions to assist you in your preparation for class.

1. What would you be tempted to do for twenty million dollars?

2. Can you name a current movie or song that illustrates just how discontented people are today in America?

3. Define the word “covet.”

4. How does the sin of covetousness differ from the sins of say murder, adultery, and stealing? What is it that makes this sin more difficult to corral than the others?

5. Of the other nine commandments that make up the Ten Commandments, with which commandment would you say the tenth commandment has the most in common? Explain.

6. Have you ever heard any confess the sin of covetousness? Why are we hesitant to admit a problem with which we all struggle?

7. So what could possibly be wrong with just “wanting more?” Construct your answer strictly from what you see in the wording of the tenth commandment only.

8. Jesus said, “What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul?” (Mark 8:36) What does this verse say to you about covetousness?

9. Engage the following quote: “The root of coveting is dissatisfaction with God’s allotment of things. We resent what we think is the unfairness of God (maybe we call it the unfairness of life) and, because of that internal resentment, we act in some way that dishonors God.” (Rick Atchley)

10. When you’re bored or lonely, what do you do to sheer yourself up? Does spending money, or looking at things on which you could spend money, make you feel better or worse? Why?

11. How good are you at rejoicing with others who have “good fortune?”

12. Think of someone you know who has learned to be content. How does their contentment show?

13. Consider King David and his involvement with Bathsheba. Consider how covetousness, and the discontent it brought into his life, was at the root of his breaking most of the Ten Commandments. As someone has said: “Sin lies in the heart long before it shows in the hands.” What practical steps can a person take to cure the covetousness in their heart?

14. Self-denial is central to what it means to being a Christian. As Jesus put it: “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) What do you still need to do to deny yourself in order to more fully follow Christ?

toward a life without accumulation

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church‘s LIFE groups tomorrow night. This discussion guide works the same subjects and primary texts as the Sunday morning sermon. You’ll find these guides categorized each week under the category title LIFE group guides.

Aim

To aid our development of Christ’s character, moving toward a life totally possessed by God rather than money or material things.

Scripture

Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how terrible that darkness will be! (Matthew 6:19-23 CEB)

Open

Icebreaker questions are intended to simply get us all talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. What’s one of the dumbest things you’ve ever spent money on?

2. A distant family member has just died and left you $500,000. What would you do with the money?

3. Aside from essentials in terms of basic food, clothing, shelter, and what it takes to stay employed, you’re now limited to five other possessions. What would make your list of five and why?

4. Would Jesus drive a Ferrari?

Dig

These questions are meant to help us grapple directly with the sermon’s primary Scripture text.

1. In Matthew 6:19-23, what three “health issues” does Jesus use as illustrations of the seriousness of living a life of craving for more money and more material possessions?

2. In light of Matthew 6:19-23, what are three lies the father of lies tells us as he tempts us to crave things and/or dollars?

3. What does Jesus mean when he says “collect treasures for yourselves in heaven?”

Reflect

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us through his word.

1. How is the euphoria of deep religious experience and buying something special similar?

2. What sort of events or influences in your life, be they good or bad, have strongly shaped your thinking and desires as to money and possessions?

3. Have you ever known a person who was virtually destitute who was quite content and happy with their life? Tell us the story.

4. What sort of things do we commonly tell ourselves to give ourselves some sense of plausible deniability to the fact that compared to most of the people in the world, we’re very wealthy?

5. Given the power of Satan’s deception on us, how can a person really know if they’re imprisoned by avarice?

6. A fellow Christian has just confessed to you that they’re living in bondage to buying stuff. They’ve requested your practical counsel and help in being set free from slavery to possessions. What counsel would you give them?

7. On a scale of 0-100, how would you score yourself as to living in simplicity? With Matthew 6:22-23 in mind, think of 0 as total darkness within you and 100 as living totally in the light of God’s will in this regard.

8. What specific things could you do now to move in a constructive way toward healthy deaccumulation?