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Today is a big day in the US for health insurance change. Open enrollment for health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace begins Oct. 1 for coverage starting as early as January 1, 2014.

October 1, 2013 0 5 comments
Blog

Your church has decided to hire a part-time Worship Coordinator. The search team thinks this should be a half-time salaried position. However, an accountant at the church talks to one of the team members and questions whether a part-time Worship Coordinator can be a salaried position. What do you think?

August 19, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

As part of the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, new health insurance marketplaces are being created where anyone can purchase coverage for themselves and their families. 

June 17, 2013 0 7 comments
Blog

Two overtures are coming to Synod next week regarding the current pension system of the denomination.

June 6, 2013 0 8 comments
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Every day we make decisions that draw us near to God or move us away from him. How do we ensure that the choices we may with our finances are ones that honour God and help us to become more like him?

March 19, 2013 0 1 comments
Blog

Today the church is just one of many charitable organizations. With so many specialized charities and dying congregations, is giving to the church really the best option?

March 5, 2013 0 1 comments
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Most of us have debt. Student Loans. Car Loans. Mortgages. Credit cards. Lines of Credit. With all these regular payments our income is quickly depleted.  Giving is not a priority. But should it be?

February 19, 2013 0 2 comments
Blog

When it comes to financial stewardship many of us would like to have a clear answer to the question: "How much should I give?"

February 12, 2013 0 6 comments
Blog

Financial stewardship is a topic we don't touch on frequently in the church, yet we deal with money daily! This week we're starting our journey into the questions related to tithing, giving and money in general.

February 5, 2013 0 8 comments
Q&A

Using Turbo Tax, my housing allowance is placed on line 53 (form 1040) as a tax credit. A year ago, a tax preparer put it on line 21 as negative income (less $xxxx). Which is correct?

March 31, 2012 0 5 comments
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Google has lifted the ban on churches meaning you can now connect your church to great tools Google has to offer.  Here are some reasons why you might consider moving your church to Google.

March 14, 2012 0 7 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

A couple weeks ago a church called and asked for information on what annual filings are required by churches.  In response to that, I referred the church to a great resource from the IRS, "Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations." 

March 5, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

The Canada Revenue Agency has changed the requirements for the Clergy Residence Deduction (CRD). 

February 9, 2012 0 3 comments
Blog

Every church should have Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation. If you are an administrative leader in your church, do you know where to find a copy of your Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation?

January 23, 2012 0 3 comments
Blog

I want to do something, use my gifts, build on my experiences, and share learned insights. Am I still too concerned about being a pastor and not focusing enough on being a person?

December 15, 2011 0 4 comments
Blog

Much has been written about the clergy residence deduction (CRD) which is available to clergy and other eligible individuals in Canada.  To be eligible, an individual must meet both a status test and a function test. 

December 6, 2011 0 6 comments
Blog

Did you know there are books written on the subject of taxes and ministers?  The annual paperback I most frequently recommend to a U.S. minister or church who is asking questions is Worth's Income Tax Guide for Ministers by B.J. Worth. 

November 28, 2011 0 1 comments
Blog

How about asking a second question, just as real and powerful as how to get rid of a pastor: “Are there ways we could help our pastors grow and flourish in their places of ministry?”

November 17, 2011 0 0 comments
Blog

Every person needs to feel appreciated. Pastors, and their spouses, are no exception. I remember getting movie tickets in the mail. No note, just tickets. It brought tears to my eyes. A small thing? Some would think so, but to us it was huge.

October 4, 2011 0 3 comments
Blog

How do we best get local compensation data for church secretaries, administrative assistants, youth directors, custodians, Kids Hope directors, music directors, and a variety of other very important staff positions at our churches? 

August 8, 2011 0 10 comments
Blog

Some churches like to talk about volunteers serving the church. I would prefer to think of it as members serving the church. My pastor challenged me to think this way.

June 30, 2011 0 1 comments
Blog

As an "aging" Pastor of 93, I feel relatively qualified to pass along to you a few suggestions for offsetting those feelings of boredom and non-productivity which we all share once we have lost the allure of "going out to pasture."

June 23, 2011 0 3 comments
Discussion Topic

Can you share an idea your church has used that involved the kids and helped them understand their acts of stewardship?

April 26, 2011 0 1 comments
Blog

Your pastor is retiring later this year and your church members would like to collect money from the congregation as a retirement gift.  Is this gift from the church taxable to the pastor?  Should the members receive a charitable contribution receipt from the church for this gift? 

April 11, 2011 0 2 comments
Q&A

Wondering if a church "opts out" of the Minister's Pension Plan, even temporarily, if it's possible to pick it up again in the future? Or is it a case of once you're out, you're out??

April 2, 2011 0 1 comments

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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

Thanks Larry. I hope that our work is a step toward addressing the concerns you raised in your insightful blog posted last year: Why Denominational Leaders Need to Address Clergy Mental Health Issues

Kudos to Mark Stephenson and the entire team who assembled the guidelines for requesting a leave of absence for pastors with mental health issues.

This document/toolkit will serve Pastors, councils, and churches well.

Thank you immensely,

Larry Van Essen

 

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!

Some suggestions:

  • Insurance should be handled the same for all employees based on full-time (30 or more) or part-time (may be two levels 20+ or under 20 typically)
  • Pension is a covered item for a minister of the Word.  Synod has determined this is how we will take care of our ministers in retirement
  • Housing Allowance is often 35-40% of salary
  • Salary is the most variable option.  Check out the Wage Scales sample in a search on The Network.  This sample from a larger church shows a salary range for a US Pastor Coordinator 1 starting at $49,750/min range/yr to a Senior Pastor max range of $108,340/yr.  This is just a sample from a church but gives you some idea of range.
  • The Ministers' Compensation Survey has variances based on 1st quartile, median, 3rd quartile.
  • "Compensation Handbook for Church Staff" by Richard Hammar
  • If you know of some churches that have a similar position, call them.

Hi Sheri: 

Pardon my digging up an old post. We are considering adding a second full-time staff person. The job does not require ordination, but many of our applicants are ordained. Could you tell us where to look for resources on how to compensate them fairly? We are came up with a base salary using the compensation book you mention here, but that no longer seems to apply if we go the ordained route (does it?)). We are also aware of the ministers compensation survey, but are looking more for information about how an ordained person in a different role should by fairly compensated (especially in comparison to the "lead" pastor with things like Insurance, housing, pension and, of course, salary). Thanks!
 

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.

 

 

Thanks Larry for posting your comments and emphasizing some Canadian nuances that may prohibit a Canadian church to directly manage an overseas ministry.  All churches should consult their registration documents and ensure compliance with government requirements in terms of both soliciting charitable donations and disbursing monies.  Church partnerships with our denomination's overseas mission agencies is an excellent way to avoid some of these administrative / legal headaches.

Jeff: Thanks for this post.

There are some nuances for Canada that should be highlighted to provide insight into the different context of doing charity work in Canada. The terms "charitable objects" and "direction and control" are key to understanding the regulatory environment for Canadian charities.

Churches are registered charities in Canada meaning that the government has given them the ability to issue receipts for gifts given in support of the churches charitable objects. This is a legal privilege for a charity not a right. In Canada registered charities can only give to other registered charities. The intention of this regulation is that a Charity support only the things that that align with it's "charitable objects".

The founding documents of a church contain the purpose or "charitable objects" of the organization. These documents are called either letters patent or letters of incorporation. For Canadian charities their operations are limited to the items listed in their "objects". Most churches in the CRC denomination have very broad objects: "preaching the word', "benevolence", "support for Christian education" and "support of the ministry of the CRC denomination".

These objects are general in scope but intentionally do not include direct overseas ministry. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has always had a more stringent set of regulations for organizations that send money outside of Canada verses those that do work within Canada's borders. In this way CRA has developed a differentiated regulatory context for domestic and international charity work. (This distinction is beginning to blur as CRA moves toward a more stringent regulatory environment for all charities.)

If a Canadian church wants to engage directly in overseas ministry they should consult their founding documents to ensure that they are able to do so in a direct way. In most cases founding documents will be silent on overseas ministry. For this reason (among others) the CRC denomination has agencies i.e. World Missions, Back to God and World Renew that do ministry overseas.  The best practice for any CRC church is to coordinate their desire to work overseas with the appropriate denominational agency in order to remain in compliance with CRA regulations.

A church must also ensure that any money it disburses to another charity will support it's own charitable objects. This is where the principle of "direction and control" comes into play. A charity must be able to demonstrate it's direction and control over the money it gives away. (i.e. that it's money is being used for it's charitable objects or purposes.) In essence the "giver" must be telling the "receiver" how the giver's money should be spent. It is incumbent on the giver to also ensure that the receiver is using the money for the intended purpose so that the giver's charitable objects are being fulfilled. In other words a charity must "direct" funds to it's the charitable objects and ensure that "controls" are in place to verify that the giver's money is actually spent on the charitable object. (direction and control). 

This Canadian regulatory environment is what makes doing charity work outside Canada much more complicated. By the way this stringent regulatory environment (direction and control) includes money Canadians might direct to ministry in the USA as well as anywhere else on the Globe.

 

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?

Thanks for this Scott: A comment on revival: If we want to see revival in the CRC, make our church communities places where we can work out a living faith in the world; Places where it is safe to name, discuss, agree, and disagree on critical issues that God and we deeply care about. There are few practical issues of applying a living faith to our lives that do not involve our moral and political choices. If we cannot deal with that within a supportive community of faith, where can we?

Well, your lead post says, "It was pointed out that nowhere in scripture can you find support for the idea of government being obligated to care for the poor."  I was merely pointing out that there IS scripture that "support[s] the idea of government being obligated to care for the poor."

Don't interpret what I say as suggesting government should try to keep people close to death, but rather that it is simply not the justice obligation of government to provide it citizenry a very comfortable living. 

Let's look at it this way.  Have you ever been motivated to really put in some extra effort because if you didn't, you and your family might be headed for some real financial trouble?  That if you didn't really put out, your business would fail, or you wouldn't be able to send a child to a college of choice, or you couldn't afford your spouse's elective surgery that would be really nice, or you wouldn't be able to afford piano lessons for your child (etc etc etc etc)?  If government's justice obligation is to give you a comfortable living, or if your justice right is to demand that government make you comfortable, what will you be tempted to do?  Answer: not worry, not put in the extra effort.  For that matter, why would you put in all that work to get the education you need to get to that next step?  Live is guaranteed comfortable, not?

Sure, some people are self-motivated to the point that they will do what they should do (use and develop their gifts) regardless of external incentives/disincentives, regardless of a government guarantee of a comfortable living, but if you and I or anyone was asked, we must admit that many people do require the incentive of sheer WANT to the point of NEED to get them motivated to do what they should do to live more fully.  Indeed, many people would be deprived of that incentive if they knew government would offer them a comfortable life if they did nothing.

Beyond that, consider that government is not the only societal institution that can and does provide truly needed help.  My goodness, if we live or die based on government, what kind of society have we actually become?

Do you really think that Romans 13:4, "For he is God's servant to do you good," intends to suggest that government will provide materially for you?  Consider the context.  The Roman government provided economically for no one (except the political elite of course).  If a subject was blind, he/she needed to beg.  Doing good, in an NT biblical  context, means maintain "law and order," I would suggest.  That is, restrain thieves and murderers and others with the power to harm you.  And that was a big deal -- and still is -- "... that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness."

I'm not sure how old you are, but I'm 61.  When I was young, only women and children were eligible for any kind of welfare benefits.  If males "needed help," except if they were disabled in some way (in which case medicaid type of benefits could kick in), then males needed to figure out how to help themselves, get help from parents, get help from friends, or something else.  Did those maies die back in the 1960s when that was the case?  Nope.  Did NEED motivate them to do something?  Yep.  In fact, I would say adults today who grew up as children in households that were very financially challenged when they were young, who grew up as children having to work 20, 30, 40 or more hours a week, are now blessed as adults.  Why?  Because they know how to handle that stress, how to work even when it isn't fun or even pleasant, how to get themselves to do what it takes to "prosper" (in a good way), and how to take care or their families -- and then also their neighbors.  And sometimes, they also learned what the true meaning of friendship is, of local community, of a church that is true family.

Do we really want Caesar to guarantee a comfortable life to all who need the nudge of economic motivation?  I don't think so.  And if the government does provide a true safety net, a subsistence that is uncomfortable, and someone really should have more than that, there still is family, friends, community, church.  Indeed, I think too many people never become a part of community and church because they perceive they don't need to.  If all else fails, the government will take care of them after all.

"With liberty and justice for all" says nothing about government owing anyone a comfortable life.  That idea would be considered absurd to the founding fathers, probably to all early church Christians and Jews living then as well.  Liberty means the right to live without an oppressive government or other force, and justice roughly the same.  Neither suggests a right to not struggle to provide for yourself.

Thanks for the exchange.  I think this is a critically important area of concern for us today.

 

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