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A mentor told me that good preaching was like a good BBQ. You’ve got to take your time on the prep work. This summer I’ve been brought back to that image as I’ve worked my way through A Little Handbook for Preachers

September 22, 2016 0 0 comments
Q&A

From what I can tell we only accept straight transfers from RCA, EPC, and ECO. Does this mean that anyone coming from PRC, URC, PCA, etc. must profess their faith again in the CRC? 

September 21, 2016 0 3 comments
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We’ve all had moments where we’ve empathetically suffered with others to the point where it really did feel like we’d suffered the loss ourselves. What if Jesus empathized like this all the time?

September 14, 2016 1 0 comments
Discussion Topic

We have a Polish Catholic couple who is interested in transferring membership to the CRC. Are there ramifications that I should be aware of? 

September 14, 2016 0 5 comments
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For those of you write sermons, or will need to write sermons, or are just curious about the process, check out my super simple 10-step guide on writing a sermon. 

September 12, 2016 0 3 comments
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“When we worshiped yesterday,” he began, “I told the congregation that our ninety minutes together was just the trailer for the movie, a tiny glimpse of the kingdom to whet our appetite."

September 8, 2016 1 0 comments
Resource, Sermon or Message

Even when people who have disabilities get to church, we sometimes struggle to minister to them. If Mephibosheth were here today, we’d have to carry him to the platform as we often can't accommodate wheelchairs.

September 7, 2016 2 1 comments
Resource, Article

In his challenging article "Why Expository Preaching is the Power for Pastoral Ministry" Michael Milton demonstrates from the Scripture eight benefits of constant, consistent and careful opening of God's Word. 

August 30, 2016 0 0 comments
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In a couple weeks our church celebrates six years of existence. During this time we've experienced the high's and low's of planting a new ministry. To celebrate, here are some lessons learned along the way. 

August 24, 2016 3 0 comments
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I recently came across an article that spoke of fears that there was an oversupply of pastors. While those fears sound contemporary, the article was written sixty years ago. What can we learn from this? 

August 11, 2016 0 0 comments
Q&A

Does anyone have access to appropriate sermons on DVD which could be used in an emergency if the pastor or guest pastor is suddenly unavailable?

July 26, 2016 0 2 comments
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Preparing a sermon can be like writing a ten-page term paper once a week and then having to present it to people. Not just that, but it has to make sense, be applicable, and capitalize on different learning styles. 

July 19, 2016 0 1 comments
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Today can be a testament to achievement but may today also be a reminder of how you are instruments of His grace. Be joyful in hope, be patient in affliction and be faithful in prayer.     

June 6, 2016 2 0 comments
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In a friendship, there should be an equal power dynamic. But for pastors, that’s usually not the case. People sink a lot of emotional investment in their pastor, and sometimes that creates gray areas.

June 1, 2016 2 2 comments
Resource, Article

I know from experience how difficult it is to prepare and deliver those kinds of sermons.  I’d suggest three approaches for preachers and their support communities to strengthen such intergenerational preaching.

May 20, 2016 2 0 comments
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When someone doesn’t show up in worship for a month, we know we shouldn’t take it personally. But we do. When we’re healthy, we realize it isn’t about us. But who is healthy all the time? 

May 12, 2016 5 1 comments
Q&A

 Does anyone have a meaningful and simple "affirming baptism" liturgy that one can use for an adult who wishes to public acknowledge and affirm their infant baptism?

May 10, 2016 1 1 comments
Resource, Article

Anyone living in our culture today is vulnerable to addiction — including pastors. However, because of their position as spiritual leaders, pastors can have a hard time reaching out for help. 

May 4, 2016 1 0 comments
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For 29 years, Professor Arie Leder has stimulated and challenged the hearts and minds of students at Calvin Seminary. See how he summarized his teaching experience in just forty minutes. 

May 3, 2016 0 0 comments
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Are you satisfied with what God has given you today? Depending on your day, your employment status, your family situation or your tax refund, this may seem like a loaded question. 

April 28, 2016 1 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Is there a sermon that completely opened your eyes to see things in a new way? Or, is there a sermon that spoke deeply into a struggle you've faced most of your life? I'd love to hear about it!

April 27, 2016 1 0 comments
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In the Reformed tradition we have the marks of the true church which include preaching and teaching of the Word of God, the sacraments and church discipline or the pastoral care of wandering sheep (Belgic Confess# 29).  The Reformers stated that when these marks were evident in a church then by...

April 26, 2016 0 0 comments
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Time after time, we hear of a pastor leaving his church to plant another congregation in the same neighborhood, causing divisions. Is it time for pastors to sign a non-compete agreement?

April 7, 2016 0 13 comments
Blog

At a recent symposium, “Speaking Truth in Love: A Forum on Human Sexuality”, convened by the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC), one of the speakers, Karla Wubbenhorst surmised that at the root of some of the current debates that are occurring within that denomination, willfulness might be at...

April 5, 2016 0 0 comments
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We've just come through the Lenten journey – days in the wilderness, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and finally Easter – we may think we have “arrived,” but we have not.

March 31, 2016 1 0 comments

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I came from the Netherlands Reformed Church in 1973 and made a Public Profession of Faith in the CRC at that time.

As I understand, the PRC and NRC are very similar in their professions of faith. They deal with life and doctrine, but not faith in Jesus Christ. I felt the need to profess this new faith in Jesus Christ when I came into the CRC. Here is the form that has been used for Profession in both the PRC and NRC...

1. Do you acknowledge the doctrine contained in the Old and New Testaments and in the Articles of the Christian faith and taught here in this Christian church to be the true and complete doctrine of salvation? 

2. Have you resolved by the grace of God to adhere to this doctrine; to reject all heresies repugnant thereto; and to lead a new, godly life? 

3. Will you submit to church government, and in case you should become delinquent (which may God graciously forbid), to church discipline?
Answer. Yes.

I hope that is helpful in guiding your conversations.

Craig,

Article 59-f applies here.  if it were a church in ecclesiastical fellowship with us, it would be 59-e.  Note that 59-f gives the consistory a responsibility to examine the persons concerning doctrine and conduct.  Then the consistory determines whether this be a "direct admission," a public reaffirmation, or a profession of faith.  One of these three that fits most appropriately with the conclusion of the examination.  If they're PRC, I would probably lean towards the first category of direct admission and so advise the consistory (if there's no problem in the conduct area).

 

 

Hi Craig,

Thanks for your question about transfer of members from "other denominations." Confessing members who are transferring from churches in ecclesiastical fellowship (as you noted, the RCA, EPC, and ECO) may be accepted within the membership of the CRC by the consistory upon the presentation of certificates or statements. Church Order Article 59-e goes on to state that the membership is accepted "after the consistory has satisfied itself concerning the doctrine and conduct of the members."

However, if a member wishes to transfer from another denomination (not in ecclesiastical fellowship with the CRCNA), according to Article 59-f, they "shall be admitted as confessing members of the congregation only after the consistory has examined them concerning doctrine and conduct. The consisotory shall determine in each case whether to admit them directly or by public reaffirmation or profession of faith. Their names shall be announced to the congregation for approval."

To answer your question about needing to make a public profession of faith once again, only if the consistory judges that a public commitment to Reformed confessions while testifying to a living faith in Christ is needed. Much depends on communication (if any) from the church that previously held the membership (active/inactive membership?).

Regards,

Dee Recker

Synodical Services Office, CRCNA

 

 

 

I am a former Roman Catholic. When I joined the CRC several years ago there was no hesitation. I knew the Church of Rome taught a different gospel and I had to get out of it.  I simply stopped attending there. There was no transfer process.  There is no official membership to cancel.  The CRC welcomed me in the fold as already baptized.  I did not have to be baptized in the CRC. As far as my Roman Catholic friends and relatives they consider me fallen away from the one true Church. I'm sure some pray that I return to Catholicism - as a prodigal son. 

Hi Adam,

As others have said--thanks for posting the question. 

Jim Dekker mentioned the ongoing Reformed-Catholic dialogue which has resulted in a joint agreement on baptism, as well as much discussion already around the Lord's Supper as practiced and understood by our respective churches.  This is likely the best comparative work that we have on the topic to date if you'd like to dig into it further. 

You can find the written work on this in the Agenda for Synod 2011 (https://www.crcna.org/sites/default/files/2011_agenda.pdf) starting on page 357ff on Baptism and Sacramentality ("These Living Waters"), continuing on page 440ff with a report on Eucharist/Lord's Supper ("This Bread of Life"), and ending with a comparison of Catholic and Reformed Lord's Supper Liturgies on page 492ff. 

If you'd like a quicker reference with a whole lot less reading--I'd direct you to contact Ronald Feenstra at Calvin Seminary, our current member at the Reformed-Catholic Dialogue table (Lyle Bierma has stepped away from this committment).

Blessings as you work through the conversation!

Adam, this is a great question. I suggest you copy it to the Facebook CRC Pastors group as well, of which you are a member.

I'd accept them as members on an appropriate reaffirmation of faith, and baptize their child. I would not make a point of communicating to their Catholic parish that we have done this. Assuming they are faithfully present in your church the communion issue is no big deal, and if they go back to Poland every few years and partake in the mass, that's no big deal either.

This is an interesting situation. Thank you for presenting it here.

First of all, "transfer of membership" is the term used for transferring memberships from one CRC to another. What would be needed for this is a "statement of membership" from their Roman Catholic church parish to the CRC (Brighton, MN, I presume) where they are attending. Yet it seems from your posting that the church/parish from which they're moving is not in the US. It might not be easy to get a "statement of membership," but should be possible. See Ch. Order Article 66 for these general rules. 

Second, I don't know what dual citizenship would have to do with anything you are describing and asking about--unless you are using the term "dual citizenship" as a synonym for "dual church membership.) My wife and I are dual citizens--US & Canada--but citizenship has nothing to do w/ church membership. (WAIT--we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God, which trumps all!)

Third, your question about participating in the sacraments is well put, but I will make a rather libertarian comment on that, based on experience in several denominations in six nations over 40-plus years. You are correct about baptism; officially the RCC does accept CRC baptism and vice versa. This was agreed upon after years of conversations in which CR and RC theologians and professors studied baptism exhaustively. (I believe Lyle Bierma was on that team and I know he reported on this issue and its conclusion to at least one synod I attended.) The experiential issue of Eucharist/Lord's Supper is significantly more ragged, though Church Order is pretty clear about the right to take part in Communion (C.O. 59). The fact is that more and more congregations in the CRC are opening up Communion more in keeping with the invitation in the Form for Lord's Supper in the grey Psalter Hymnal, which some have said veers away from strict interpretation of the Church Order. As well, I have been in Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and even (Eastern) Orthodox congregations in which the pastor/priest has made it very clear that Christians other than those of their own communion were welcome to participate.

I say that because in the case of the people you describe who evidently would return to Poland to visit family, it would be not merely awkward, but very sad if they could no longer participate in Communion in their homeland. Perhaps they could communicate with their home parish about this. On the other hand--and here is the libertarian comment--not a few have declared that sacraments do not belong to any church, but to God who welcomes believers, forgiven sinners, regardless of denomination. You know the implication of that reading.

Fourth, you ask about the child's baptism. I take it that the child has not been baptized in a Roman Catholic church. In that case, you are right that the should be members of your congregation, according to C.O. Article 56.

I don't know if this is helpful, but it has been enjoyable thinking about it with you. Blessings on your and your congregation's ministry with this family.

 

Adam,

A great question.  I think you identify some of the key issues toward the end of the second paragraph. Also, you are correct about the "dual-citizenship." I'm not sure that any church who recognizes membership within their polity would allow their members to also be members of another church or denomination.

Basically, I think you're on the right track. It's a great teaching opportunity for you and for the couple.  You would also want to have the council involved, endorsing and affirming the faith of the couple.

May I suggest one more thing? There are people much wiser than me and probably some who have had experience ministering in this situation that could find your question here, but are more likely to find you the Facebook group: Pastors of the Christian Reformed Church. It is a a "closed" group, meaning you would have to request to join and the moderators would include you.  It is an active group with close to 700 members of both active and (actively) retired pastors.

Blessings to you as you walk with this couple in their faith!  What a privilege!

Amen. Pray all the way through.

I am reminded of one prof told me was his three-step process for answering test questions.

1. Read the question. (He said it was amazing how many people skip this step.)

2. Think really hard.

3. Write down the answer.

This is a helpful list, especially if you find it difficult to get to a finished presentation. However, I would recommend moving prayer from step 4 to step 1. If we think we need prayer as part of the writing process, but not part of the interpretation process, it might be better for our congregations if the printer does break.

 

 Nice, although saying that David's adultery puts his disability on the same level as someone who uses a wheelchair to get around trivializes genuine disabilities.  I'm not aware that David's adultery prevented him from using a sword or walking, or even caused him to experience hallucinations for that matter.  if this congregation needed to be told about David's adultery, either they aren't even at Disability 101 yet, or the pastor needs to read my blog about chronically normal people.

posted in: Differently Abled

Exactly! Logically, we don't evangelize so that people can be saved (can become regenerate) but to welcome the regenerate into the many benefits of the Church in this world. For years I heard sermons about my neighbors all going to Hell if I didn't pester them about "inviting Jesus into their hearts." One preacher said that we (I) would have to push our neighbors over the edge into Hell if I neglected to "evangelize" them.

I am already to discuss the matter if the topic arises but I hate to pester people. If they come to my door . . . .

The purpose of evangelism in Reformed theology is the same as the reason in other branches of Protestantism -- 1) to be obedient to the Great Commission, and 2) because God has set it up so that the preaching/teaching/sharing/what-have-you of the word precedes regeneration.  See Rom. 10:14-15.  Also see Canons of Dort, "First main point", Article 3: "In order that people may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends messengers of this very joyful message to the people and at the time he wills. By this ministry people are called to repentance and faith...".  Even if one limits this to those who were not baptized as infants, it is still a massive call: go, make disciples, and baptize.  We must be looking everywhere, including outside our church walls, to find the elect, since God hasn't told us who they are.

Hello Jerry - Calvin Seminary's Center for Excellence in Preaching also has some sermons available in audio format. You can find them here.

We routinely create DVDs of sermons at Faith Christian Fellowship, a CRC church in Walnut Creek, CA. We use them to give to people who weren't able to make it to church. They are also on our web site at http://faithfellowship.com/media so that you could see in advance what might fit best. My guess is that many other churches do the same - in fact the CRC could maintain an amazing library of sermons this way!

I too am a preacher of sorts. But my sermons are made of pictures, pauses, and ponderings, rather than words alone. My congregation includes babes and children, Christian sages and curious non-believers. Today's preachers should move away from the endless speeches (made for auditory learners), and bring their congregations into the process of worship. We can and should be learning and exploring together, and from each other. Thank you for making a passing reference to learning styles.

Hi, i need the script of this video 

is there any one to help me?

many thanks

blessing!

Doug -- Three questions:

(1) Why not extend your commentary to include the next two verses, Romans 13:5-7 ?

(2)  Given the vast differences between the cultural context in the First Century and our own, and even more so our cultural context and that of the Old Testament, are we not running the risk of false equivalencies on a large scale ?

(3)  How does the key concept of SHALOM figure in the discussion ?

 

Thanks Jasmine.  I remember one of my seminary professors telling us, “beware of who greets you at the train station.”  In other words beware of those who want to befriend you because they often have an agenda.  They might be the nicest people and the kind of persons that you would want to befriend, but they have a history with the church that you don’t have.  They see the needs of the church differently than you might see them.  So when you aren’t altogether onboard with their agenda, there can be a falling away and hurt feelings.  And, as people can be people, you as the pastor can be painted as unsympathetic or worse.  Another possibility in the pastor/member relationship is that you, as pastor, are expected to hold confidences but it doesn’t always work that way when the tables are turned.  It’s often a feather in the cap of a member to be able to say, the pastor told me such and such, or to say, the pastor did/does this or that.  Choose your friends carefully because you don’t always know who you can trust, and you will be in your position as pastor for a long time.

posted in: Pastor as Friend?

This is a very, very important article - thanks for posting it. The power differential between a pastor and a parishioner must always be taken into consideration in any ministry relationship. And it is ALWAYS the responsibility of the pastor to maintain healthy boundaries in ministry relationships. Therefore, when sexual misconduct occurs, it is not an "affair". An affair implies a relationship of equality and mutuality - that does not accurately describe the relationship between pastor and parishioner. A pastor and parishioner are not on equal footing. When sexual misconduct occurs in this relationship, it is an abuse of power and abuse of the office. Referring to this as an "affair" causes additional harm to the one whose been victimized by it. 

Healthy ministry boundaries are complex and it's important to spend some time carefully considering them. It's not a matter of a creating a list of do this and don't do that. Rather it's considering how a relationship is perceived and paying attention to the power differential involved. Healthy boundaries create a container for good ministry. Many denominations require ongoing boundary or ethics training for clergy and ordained leaders. Ministry leaders, and especially ordained ministers, must remain cognizant of the great power inherent in their position, and the sacred trust that they hold. Seeking additional training in this area is a very wise move.

This webinar provides a quick introduction to some of the topics to consider in maintaining healthy ministry boundaries, 

posted in: Pastor as Friend?

I appreciate the relief you found in the parable, but the "long leash" and go-to-church-to-show pastors-you-appreciate-them is both very bad advice. 

Scripture says much about membership to a body...not a person...

posted in: Perfect Attendance

There is a liturgy that is found in both Sing! A New Creation (#240), and Lift Up Your Hearts (#848) that you can use as is or adapt for your context.  I cannot find it online but if you don't have a copy of either hymnal send an email to worship@crcna.org and we will see how we can help get you a copy of the litany. 

....or the visitors could listen to the pain felt by all parties involved, and encourage dialogue and mutual understanding,  which may, in the end, bear witness to the hope that is within us,  that reconciliation is possible, and love wins...

You are right on.  I just learned of a situation where a pastor spent six months working behind the back of the leadership on his departure. I concur that mentoring and visitation could help. Perhaps those practices could speak to the deceit and duplicity in the heart of those who sow dissension and divide the church. 

It is not likely that the departing pastor woke up one day, and said to himself: "I think I'll start a new church down the street". If we want to be proactive about this problem, perhaps we have to look into new ways to mentor pastors, or recapture the intent behind an old concept: classical church visitation. Creating safe spaces for people to talk together may help prevent the sort of divorces of which you speak.

"In God We Trust." "Money" is the god of the USA. 

I like the idea in many ways.  Ecclesiastical piracy is a problem in the United States (Canada too?).  However, I suppose that every pastor that splits a congregation in order to plant a "better" church will say "I'm just like Martin Luther!  Those curmudgeons and lagards in the old church were harming the gospel by insisting on their own way and threw me and others out!  Etc."  I can't imagine one saying "Well, the truth is, I'm an egomaniac and I can't stand dissent and I really, really, wanted to see a church bring the gospel the right way--MY WAY".  Can we discern the Martin Luthers from the Jim Jones'?  Maybe, but even if we could, what are our options?  I like your suggestion at the end, about prayer.  I would ad "warning" as well.  Even if we can't judge the pastors present in every church split, one day the Chief Shepherd will judge.  And woe to any of us pastors who have been "shepherding" out of our own needs and desires rather than those of Christ!  

Another thing we can do is with the help of the Candidacy Committee encourage the righteousness of candidates for ministry (and screen out those who how obvious tendencies to break up and dominate groups) and we could possibly help search committees develop some criteria to avoid calling "that kind of pastor".  

Thankfully, Christ still governs His church and those who lead from unholy motives will only get so far!  Thanks for the article!

But trying to find a way to address a significant problem in the American Protestant Church.  How do we encourage pastors to be faithful to their promises and committed to unity?  Perhaps one way is to talk about it.  Hence, my post.

But trying to find a way to address a significant problem in the American Protestant Church.  How do we encourage pastors to be faithfil to their promises and committed to unity?  Perhaps one way is to talk about it.  Hence, my post.

Tongue in cheak, for sure.  

THanks for feedback, Tim.  I can see where my use of the non-compete clause led you to conclude that I was addressing competition between churches. Sorry about that.  My point, however, was not about competition and, therefore, I agree with your statement. We all need to keep our eye on the priize and seek first the kingdom.

My concern is with pastors who break their vows/promises and, in the process, divide congregations. (It is hard for me to see God at work in such behavior.) Plus, as you know, the unfortunate fruit of such actions is often divisions which, as Jesus warned, hinder, rather than advance the witness of Christ to the communities they seek to reach. 

Assuming this is not a joke, no we should not have pastors sign non-compete agreements.  This from a lawyer.

If we did, I doubt the courts of many (any) states would enforce them anyway, non-competes being disfavored by courts even in the business context.

Really?  Fear of competition is going to restrict what God may be doing?  Isn't there one God that we're working for?  Isn't there really only one church?  Let's get past ourselves and look to what God is about.  We are becoming more and more worldly in our approaches.  Let's seek first the kingdom.  If a church cannot remain viable because a neighbouring church is opening, then we have to wonder about the viability of the original church to begin with...

Good conclusion.

Perhaps we just need to imnclude it in the oath of office for ordination and installation?

Thanks Randy. Last year I had to pull out a copy of the Letter of Call to remind them of their obligation. Some were stunned to see that in writing. It did change the previous decision and a raise was given. We need to keep everyone enlightened about their responsibilities. We take it for granted that everyone understands, but with changing council members it has to be brought to their attention. I am thankful for their understanding when they received the information.

Good to have this conversation.  I have found that you have to be assertive because committees don't always think logically when it comes to the compensation survey.  The survey is from LAST year's salaries and is meant for determining next year's salary.  It's not meant to BE next year's salary, but the finance committee in my church doesn't seem to understand that.  Because they have always used last year's numbers for the present year, I'm a year behind.  If all finance committee's did what mine does, our pastor's salaries would always remain the same.  The other issue is that our Classis had an influx of young new pastor's and the average dropped significantly for last year.  In my two years in my present charge I've actually been presented with a decrease both years.  Go figure!

Good thoughts -- and necessary re-evaluation of how we prepare future pastors. One thing not addressed is the power of positive models. We could talk about how to produce a great violin concerto for weeks, but one has to hear it to know what the goal is. If students never hear and observe a good sermon they may be frustrated in trying to produce one from a formula. One very effective and Reformed narrative sermon crafter (who also exegetes our culture well) is Alistair Begg in Cleveland, OH (daily podcast and sermon archive at truthforlife.com). I'm sure there are a few others who could serve as such models. If students were asked to listen to such models and evaluate what makes them effective I suspect they would learn more then they could acquire from many books and lectures.

Great observations/article Scott. I'm now working with Ambrose Seminary (on a course on two-book preaching). They're asking all of the same questions you ask here. I'll be passing this article on to them. If CTS is ever interested...  ; )

Scott, thanks much.  And I believe your last comment is right on, as well as this one: "Yet too many seminaries spend far more time making sure that the theology of future preachers is solid than they do helping them communicate all that in vibrant, relevant ways." I look forward to how the Lilly initiative to strengthen preaching impacts CTS.  Keep up the good work.

 I work part-time for World Renew.  My recollection is that the majority world lives off of $2 a day.  That is what is used to define extreme poverty, my understanding of World Renew's definition.

I think people who have to live off $2 a day or less need help.  Where should that help come?  It should come from their family, church, non-government  agencies and yes the government too.  That is the point of the law, the prophets and the New Testament when it speaks on social implications of the Word of God.

The government is a divinely appointed agency to do good. Romans 13, Matthew 25, Psalm 72.  The ruler is a channel of God's authority.

Larry: So exactly what to you mean when you say "take care of the poor?"  My response clearly indicated that government had an obligation to provide a "safety net" but I'm not sure -- and said so in my comment to your post -- that qualifies as "providing for the poor," as you understand that phrase.

So let's clarify what we might be agreeing or disagreeing about.  What do you mean when you say that "government should take care of the poor?"

Hi Doug,

#1.  I did not draw a straight line from the theocracy to modern governments.  I only drew a line from the theocracy on the principle that the nation of Israel had to provide for the poor.  The prophets understood the scriptures that way or they could not have said that Israel would go into captivity for their idolatry and neglect of the poor.  This principle of accountability and responsibility is carried over into the New Testament.  What part of care for the poor or provide for the poor do you not understand?  We should not permit our modern differentiations of government responsibilities from excluding the governments responsibility for the poor.

 I do not agree with your statement that he year of jubilee had anything to do with caring for the poor.  It was a major redistribution of ownership of land to the way it was in the time prior to the 49 years.  That is, in my opinion, major caring for the poor which was commanded by God and legislated through Moses.  It stands not as law that needs to be replicated but as a principle to be honored.  I think your understanding of Jubilee is not held by Calvin, Berkhof, or any other Reformed theologian.

Besides the year of Jubilee which took effect in the 50th year and staid in effect until the next 50th year, there is the legislation of leaving the corners of the field for the poor, still observed until the time of Ruth we know, the Sabbatical year, the third year tithe which as to go to the poor, (Deuteronomy 14:28-29), zero interest loans (Deut. 15:1-11).  The principle of caring for the poor was deeply imbedded in the life of Israel.

Taking your items, Larry, in numbered ordered:

#1.  I'm really hesitant to draw a straight line between God's mandates to Israel and modern mandates for government.  OT Israel was, as Jim Skillen would say, an "undifferentiated society" where institutions of government, church, even family to an extent, were merged (or, "undifferentiated").  Beyond that, Israel was a special nation, uniquely ruled by theocracy, even to a large extent after Saul became the first monarch.  If one draws too much from OT Israel to inform modern government, one must adopt some of the OT Israel laws that, even though not pointing to Christ, did apply to the nation/church/family of Israel.  Reconstructionist (theonomists) draw too much from the pattern of OT Israel government, I think, as do the social justice folks but on the "opposite side."

As to the Year of Jubilee, I don't so much regard that as a "taking care of the poor" measure as it is a "keeping macro balance" within society at large measure (somewhat like an estate tax imposed at death?).  After all, Jews were allowed to sell themselves into servanthood, to lose their land and all their possessions and become what was a form of a slave.  The Year of Jubilee didn't nothing for them, except every 49th year.  Were the Year of Jubilee about "taking care of the poor," it would be "active" during the 48 years as well, but it's not.

#2.  Jesus certainly said "give to Ceasar that which is Ceasar's" but I can't find any suggestion that government under Ceasar provided for the poor.  Ceasar didn't do that.  And although scripture suggests nations will have to account for how they treated the poor, that doesn't mean that government is responsible to take care of the poor.  A "nation" includes the people of a nation, not merely the government, which plays one of many roles within a particular political society, which again these days is "differentiated."

#3.  I would suggest your statement in #3 does little more than beg the question.  What, after all, does it mean to "take care of the poor"?  That could mean a thousand different things in a thousand differing degrees.  Having said that, I'll come back to a suggestion that I've made before in response to one of these posts: the fact that government is clearly given the power of the sword, which clearly means the power over life and death, I think we can fairly extrapolate that government has the affirmative authority/duty to provide a modern day "safety net" (even if Ceasar didn't) since without it, people die.  Does that degree of "providing for the poor" match your intention when you write "providing for the poor"?  I don't know because I'm not sure what your definition is for the phrase.

Thanks for creating the discussion, Larry.  These are important issues for Christians to grapple with, and not at all simple.

 

 

Maybe I've missed something along the way, but I see absolutely no conflict whatsoever in any way with being "welcoming but not affirming." We – personally and corporately – *have to be* if we wish to get up in the morning and look ourselves in the mirror, much less evangelize or serve our neighbors. 

Have we assumed differently? Has our biblical opposition to sin really given us the idea that really bad sinners (i.e. people who sin differently than me) really are beyond repentance? I pray that's not what we think – and I pray that’s not what people outside the Church think. After all, the God who said, “Go and sin no more.” said it after invading our sinful world and stepping into our flesh. Paul doesn’t “become all things to all men” so he can reject them out-of-hand. When Paul wrote “and such were some of you,” he testified that the gospel reaches into all sorts of people’s lives and gives them new life and repentance.

posted in: A Gracious Welcome

I would clarify that some of the questionable actions of the CRC's Office of Social Justice i.e. sanctioning President Obama's Agricultural bill over the Republican alternative as well as the actions of conservative groups like the Christian Coalition (I once sat in a church that had a bulletin insert comparing candidates based on their support for an anti-flag burning amendment to the U.S. Constitution!) are what I had in mind reading Scott Hoezee's article. I have a hard time seeing that the biggest problem for the CRC or the broader church in North America today is a reluctance of clergy to speak on political matters.

I do qualify this by saying there are, obviously texts and issues that demand attention. I have no problem with a pastor lamenting the destruction of human life by abortion, for example. I strongly disagree with churches that engaged in a campaign called "Justice Sunday" some years back to rally support for then President GW Bush's judicial nominees. 

I have no problem breaking bread with professing believers who disagree on public policy. I also concur pastors must sometimes address difficult topics. I only hasten to add it needs to be done with humility and reasonable restraint if we are going to move forward as a denomination. That is well there may very well be instances where pastors are too reluctant to take on topics, there are other times when, imo, there has been a lack of maturity and discernment which results in "push back". 

Peter: I'm a bit surprised at your response here.  You say we need "Places where it is safe to name, discuss, agree, and disagree on critical issues that God and we deeply care about."  You are the director of OSJ, which involves itself in just these sorts of subjects, and yet all of OSJ's "online publications," like DoJustice, are intentionally one-way, that is, you disable the comment functions.  The discussion and disagreement you here say is so important is missing when OSJ communicates.

Yes, you and I have had this discussion (about OSJ's one-way communications) by email before and you've concluded we just disagree, which was true, but now you seem to be saying discussion, including about disagreement, is needed after all.

Understand I'm on your side on this comment, but it appears to me you aren't on your own side when it comes to presenting your/OSJ's perspective on these kinds of issues -- then/there you reject discussion.  Help me out here in understanding what I perceive to be a disconnect.

I'll repeat the argument made above.  Government is given, as Scripture indicates (Rom 13:4, but also the clear tradition of the OT), the power of the sword, which can fairly be interpreted to mean the authority in society over whether someone lives or dies.  That being the case, it would follow that if poverty existed in a particular nation that is life-threatening, government, the holder of the power over life and death, should exercise that power in a way that prevents that death -- that is, death from poverty, which could result specifically from of lack of food, lack of clothing, lack of housing, lack of health care, etc.

 

Doug much of what you say is good common sense and some a laundry list of what governments may do in the interest of the common good.  Butt here is not a single reference to a Bible passage in your article so I dispute the assertion that you were showing that Government is responsible to take care of the poor.  What scripture are you referring to?

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