One of my pastoral priorities for this quarter is preaching. Accordingly, I’m reading Cornelius Plantinga Jr.’s, Reading for Preaching (Eerdmans, 2013). I appreciate the guidance that Rev. Plantinga gives in his book. His message that reading is important to the preacher comes through loud and clear. Good reading makes you wiser, and improves your...

February 4, 2014 0 0 comments

Funerals, like weddings, are family matters. So says, the church order. But it is never so simple. Families are part of communities. We come together, usually in church, to remember a person and comfort each other in the light of the good news of Christ... 

January 28, 2014 0 2 comments

We hear a great deal about our Biblical mandate to get the gospel out to the lost. I don’t want to minimize that in any way. But the fact of the matter is the early church set the precedent for us by reaching out with a mandate to encourage as they spread the gospel of grace. With many Christians beyond our denominational walls so totally overwhelmed and discouraged...

January 28, 2014 0 5 comments

Why do you shop where you shop? Many of us choose to shop where we do because of the prices the store offers, or the selection, or the convenience. More rarely, I think, we do business with certain places out of a sense of customer loyalty. I believe this is true about our congregations, too...

January 21, 2014 0 5 comments

We've witnessed an overabundance of resources for worship renewal during the last three or more decades. These resources have addressed a variety issues, including the role of music in worship, the formation of spiritually transformative liturgies, etc. In contrast, little attention has been given to the role of the sermon. According to a recent survey, the sermon...

January 7, 2014 0 9 comments

Try reading Chaucer, or Dante, or Shakespeare or other dead poets. Even reading CS Lewis’ work from the mid 20th century can sometimes give you an appreciation for the short shelf-life of much of what we read. Then consider how much more vastly foreign the Bible is to all of its contemporary readers...

January 2, 2014 0 1 comments

I spent a couple of days in Phoenix visiting Mom. This past year we agreed that she shouldn’t drive anymore. She has people willing to drive her to church or to the store or run her by the bank, but it has been a difficult adjustment. She had been getting lost and confused and had difficulty seeing. It was traumatic for her, but she handed us the keys...

December 24, 2013 0 9 comments

I’ve know a lot of pastors. I’ve seen them happy and sad, fresh and broken. I’ve seen a good number of them towards the end of their ministries quietly happy to be done with leading churches and caring for people. I remember one pastor telling me how he made sure he son didn’t go into the ministry. He didn’t want him making THAT mistake. I was glad I wasn’t his son...

December 23, 2013 0 7 comments

We recently conducted an Alpha course as part of the Alberta 2013 Alpha movement.  Although Alpha has been around for years, I had never taken nor led a course.  It was all new for me.  I’d heard many positive testimonies about Alpha but wondered since it had been around so long—would it still work?...  

December 17, 2013 0 7 comments

When I long for a nice quiet Christmas like so many of those seen only on Christmas cards, I take a deep breath and remember that Christmas has never been nice and quiet--never! The gloria sung in the highest that first Christmas was sung over the din of the uproar coming from an over-crowded Bethlehem...

December 10, 2013 0 0 comments

I have been making my way through Pope Francis’ exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel. This document is a call for Christians everywhere to reengage the biblical call of evangelization. While I recognize there is some controversy already about the document, his starting place, calling for personal renewal and a recommitment to being an evangelizing people, is quite encouraging...

December 10, 2013 0 11 comments

For two decades ever more frequent scandals involving clergy have surfaced in many communions. Many of those crimes were covered up by bishops or other denominational judicatories. Small wonder that surveys that measure trust in people in public positions of authority have ranked clergy as low or lower than politicians...

December 9, 2013 0 13 comments

Please tell me why clergy should get some kind of special entitlement for housing? I think it is one of the most ridiculous perks ever devised by the legislature. There is absolutely no reason why clergy should get this. And I am one.

December 5, 2013 0 5 comments

I know some of you haven't taken Greek, and that it's been a while for some of the rest of us, but as I was preparing for a sermon series in the New Year regarding reconciliation, I got to thinking about Greek imperatives. Maybe some of you experts out there can help me. Can you tell us anything about the relative strength of an imperative in Greek?

December 5, 2013 0 7 comments

A church recently expressed interest in having me lead preach and perhaps some other duties for a period of 3-5 mos.  What the going rate?

December 3, 2013 0 1 comments

December is ‘Fallow Month’ or at least it is at the Village Church in Tucson. In the early years of our church plant, when we first implemented Fallow Month, it was because we sensed that the stresses of the season had worn our people to a frazzle and that, instead of being a time of joy and grace, it had become something to get through and survive...

December 3, 2013 0 1 comments

You might be surprised that laziness and overworking can essentially be the same thing. Laziness doesn’t necessarily mean (although it can be) sitting around and doing nothing. Laziness is often doing many things without prayerfully examining if these are the best ways to use our time. In ministry, it’s easy for us to be busy doing the wrong things...

November 27, 2013 0 2 comments
Discussion Topic
The following was recently shared by Rev. Scott Hoezee, Director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching. Greetings: As we come to the last Sunday this year before Advent begins on December 1, I am pleased to announce that our Advent and Christmas Resources page is up and ready for your perusal...
November 25, 2013 0 1 comments

Preaching fresh, inspiring messages at Christmas can be a real challenge. As I thought about this, I determined that one of the main problems we face is what I call the Christmas mythology. We’ve all been told the stories of the birth of Jesus and we think we know the stories. But we rarely ask if something different may have been happening over two thousand years ago...

November 19, 2013 0 2 comments

In small-town and rural America, you not only serve your congregation, you serve the whole county you're in and sometimes beyond. Because rural people are so tied together and families are scattered here and there, every pastor ends up pastoring everybody...

November 12, 2013 0 3 comments

I received a request to write about the qualities of the ideal Senior Pastor or “1st Chair.” That request led me to consult with some Associate Pastors from whom I received great insight, the kind I wish I would have received while serving as a Senior Pastor. Here is the beginning of a list of essential qualities, as determined  by Associate Pastors, for the ideal Senior Pastor...

November 6, 2013 0 5 comments
Discussion Topic

Many churches have one or more chaplains who call it their “home.” Other churches do not, but are filled with individuals who may have had, or may someday experience, the need for a chaplain’s pastoral care while serving in the military, recovering in a hospital, residing in a long-term care...

November 5, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

It’s a small thing to do for a large sacrifice that they made (and may still be making) for us. Please take time on this Veterans Day / Remembrance Day (Nov. 11) or on the Sunday before it ( Nov 10) to say thank you to those...

November 5, 2013 0 0 comments

As a pastor, I’ve ministered to a variety of people who run the gamut of mental and behavioral health. I’ve worked with people who deal with depression. I've worked with people who are bi-polar and aren't medicated. I myself am ADHD and know the effects it has on day-to-day life. So how do we minister to those who deal with mental/behavioral health issues?...

October 29, 2013 0 4 comments

It's so easy to remain busy keeping the programs going, preparing for next week, meeting with the "urgent" needs of parishioners, and trying to find personal space amidst all the chaos, that working toward balance seems impossible. I think the real reason why this balance appears to be so difficult is because it does not match the expectations of many pastors or...

October 24, 2013 0 6 comments



A great story, Rod. It warmed my heart and gave me a fresh appreciation of my mother. You relate very ordinary events in your mother's life but in doing so we see how very extraordinary they really are. It is a beautiful tribute to your mother. We come to appreciate deeply the gift she has been for so many people. Your story helped all of us to see the gift she is and to treasure her with you. In these years of inevitable loss, may the beauty of the gift she has been remain strong for her and all of you. Thanks again. Harvey

Thanks Rod:

Helps me realize what Ruth's Mom is going through as well, letting go and looking on the horizon for heaven.

Reminds me that God's common grace is very much alive.


God Bless you all,


Vern Vander Zee


Thanks Joel. pvk

posted in: God's Own Fool

Hey brother,. This was great! I hope you and your mom have a wonderful Christmas

These current Network posts are an encouragement to me.  Rod Hugen wrote about his mother, who sounds very much like my mother, and you wrote about your father, who sounds a lot like my father.  His relationship to God, his dependence on God and his trust in God were deep and constant. His optimism about the future had everything to do with who he believed God to be and what God's purposes are and he considered it a really big privilege to be able to join God in what he was doing.  My dad died on New Years Day three years ago.  I join you in thanking God for such fathers as we were blessed with.

posted in: God's Own Fool

Thanks, Rod, for sharing this touching story about your Mom.  She sounds a lot like my Mom.  I learned, from an early age, the importance of relationships from my Mom.  At 84, she is still teaching me about the value of relationships.  We are blessed, aren't we, by our mothers' influence in our lives?

Thanks so much for sharing the story of your mom Rod. It resonates with what a few of my friends and family are experiencing. May  God give us the grace and patience to walk alongside our aging family members in these changing situations. Your mom sounds like a wonderful lady!

Bonnie's comments that the healthiest churches have least tolerance for bad behaviour is a good one.   Her comments about having lower standards than other professions, while well intended, seems to miss the main point of not tolerating bad behaviour.   It is not because of a professional title, or occupation, but because of the main purpose of officebearers such as pastors elders and deacons, to teach, lead, exemplify the grace of Christ and the obedience that comes with it.   Since everyone struggles with sin, we all need to encourage each other (mutual accountability) and this encouragement can be positive, as well as negative encouragement (not tolerating sin).    What is the point of having a pastor preaching the gospel while he denies it in his life, in his visible witness?  Same applies to an elder.   That doesn't mean that elders and pastors are perfect, and we need to live in an attitude of forgiveness.   But grace comes with repentance and change and newness of life.  In some cases, if the personal struggle is too long and too big, then that would be a clear sign that God has another calling in mind for the individual.   If the offense is against a vulnerable person based on position of trust, then probably that also is quickly a sign that God has another calling in mind.  

The fear of not being forgiven ought to be greater than the fear of changing an occupation.   The fear of idolators, adulterers, fornicators, homsex practicers, not entering heaven, ought to be greater than the fear of losing prestige or position with mere men.   Grace requires repentance.   By not addressing these issues, we may be condemning some pastors, elders, deacons or even any self-professed christian to hell.    Jesus said there will be those who say, "Lord, Lord, didn't we do miracles and heal and cast out demons?"   And God will say, "I never knew you".   why?  because they were not obedient, and worshipped other idols, of self, or sex, or other things.   This is much more serious than comparing standards to some of the professions.  "he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins:  James 5. 

Thanks so much for your well put addition to Jim's original statements. Our history verifies your questions and our continued "
"protectionish" is often enough to our shame. Great closing on leaving "final redemption to eternity." We're due for a little more accountability and consequences for our behavior.

At a recent meeting of transitional pastors, the speaker, Susan Nienaber, said, "The healthiest churches have the least tolerance for bad behavior". The quote stuck with me as it seems to apply to some "messy" situations in which Safe Church involvement becomes necessary.

Of course the Lord has the power to forgive and to transform lives, and churches need to welcome sinners. But that doesn't mean that everyone has the right to become a pastor, Sunday school teacher, or other church leader. I would maiintain that certain behaviors would prevent someone from holding those sacred positions of trust and power in our churches.

As a licensed social worker in the state of Michigan, I'm required to adhere to a professional code of ethics. There are certain behaviors that would cause me to lose my license and never get it back. I'm also required to take 5 hours of continuing ethics education every 3 years. The ethical questions and dilemnas that arise are not always easy and it's good to consider these along with other professionals. We challenge one another and hold one another accountable. It helps us maintain healthy boundaries, which create a container for effective work. That's true for ministry too. Where do CRC pastors and church leaders go for ongoing ethical education? Who can they confide in, and consider ways to create and maintain healthy ministry boundaries? Who will hold them accountable in their day to day ministry?

Does it seem right to you that CRC pastors are held to a lower standard than other professions? It doesn't seem right to me.

At our church we just finished out 11th Alpha session since 2004. It always amazes me who God sends to these courses. Over the years many new people have become members of our church through Alpha. Being in a very large multi-cultural city, this past season we saw three students from China who have never before heard the gospel, a woman from a Hindu family who became a Christian a year ago, a Christian who is married to a Muslim, plus Christians from Guyana, India and Canada. With such a mixture of people it is wonderful to see a bond of belonging developing quite quickly. It is a challenge though to know where to begin when there is absolutely no biblical knowledge. Alpha is a great tool and the Holy Spirit uses this tool to bless our church community. Sometimes, and especially for the students from China, belonging to a loving group of people who care for them comes before believing. Praise God for the way He works.

posted in: Alpha Still Works!

Bill, maybe it would not be wrong to say that your power saw still works.... even though you know that it takes someone to operate it, and that it needs power to make it work.    Just that analogy work for you? 

posted in: Alpha Still Works!

Hi Bill,

Thank you for the feedback.  I'm not quite sure how to answer your question, except to say that Alpha "works" as a tool for receiving and proclaiming the gospel.  We had a few people with little or no faith grow spiritually during our Alpha course--thanks be to God! Happily, the Lord uses "tools" like Alpha to invite people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus.  And I'm very thankful for it.  And I think one of the main reasons that Alpha is so effective is that it functions sort of like a modern-day, accessible catechism classis--which I suspect John Calvin would appreciate!

Have a Blessed Season of Advent and Merry Christmas!


posted in: Alpha Still Works!

Back when I was a dispensational baptist I knew exactly what "Alpha still works" meant and implied. Since I read "The Institutes" cover to cover and "got reformed" I no longer know. How does the concept of "Alpha still works" apply to the teaching of John Calvin? The Holy Spirit retroactively applies the Alpha text to a specific person before God created the universe? God regenerated (past tense) a person because God knew the person would attend an Alfa meeting?

posted in: Alpha Still Works!

The distinction between a specific command and a general command is a valid one, Daniel. When Jesus tells the blind man to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam (John 9:7), this is a specific command to a specific situation; Jesus is not directly commanding us to do the same (though I believe he is, indirectly, informing us that through him we can gain sight--not just physical but also spiritual). But when he says, "Love one another as I have loved you" (John 15:12), he is definitely giving an instruction to us as his followers.

All of this tells me that there is room for a thorough, yet accessible, analysis of the imperatives in the NT. Perhaps in my role at Zondervan I can suggest that to a potential author. (Right now a book is being written on all the questions in the NT, and it will indeed be an intriguing and engaging book.) One thing seems certain: the situation in which an imperative is spoken (including the historical situation, the social situation, and the rhetorical situation) all play a role in determining the nuance we must understand in each imperative (whether second or third person) that we encounter.

Wow, thanks Jim for being bold and brave bringing this up...  I've been warned (and have experienced) that I won't make friends when I talk about stuff like this, so hopefully you will fare better =)

In the last 2 years, I've been very intentionally researching one specific sexual sin in the Church, and that is porn...  I have attached an article that I think we might find quite disturbing with the information shared (encourage you to read comments as well)...

I have found statistics that the % of those in the church (primarily men) struggling with it, was 40% in 2002; 50% in 2008 and 60% in 2012, but the estimate of spiritual leaders, based on anecdotal evidence, is even higher with 80% and 90% being suggested by numerous leaders (Including in the article linked to below).  I know synod 2012 endorsed the overture to take an active stance against porn, and, well, we'll wait and see what that might look like...   because it is a huge, huge issue in the Church.

the following quote breaks my heart, and unfortunately, this verifies what I along with several other women that I know have experienced regarding ungodly conduct by leaders in the Church....   cover it up, keep it quiet, minimize it, circle the wagons, shut it down pretty much at all costs for a number of reasons...  and the spiritual leaders doing the inappropriate behavior end up staying in leadership (at least in the situations I'm personally aware of).  Maybe a few here and there are quietly asked to leave once their secret sin is discovered, but it's very rarely a public rebuke (generally only when it's a crime and the police are involved) even though I TIm. 5:20 states that is what is needed so other leaders can take warning (which is ironically humorous that I'm being the one warned that I won't make friends when I talk about it)...

BOQ...Many of those crimes were covered up by bishops or other denominational judicatories, sadly the very individuals or bodies responsible for safeguarding against such behaviour.  EOQ

what we have found is that those in power protect each other at the expense of the weak/victims, and that abuse thrives in a culture of shame and silence.  the exact opposite of what the Church is called to do.  we have found that even though the Church is called to a higher standard than the world, we are not even up to the world's standard on holding spiritual leaders accountable for ungodly conduct, in the situations i'm aware of.   To have any level of accountability has been a battle, and at this point it seems the victims are losing.

here's the link to what our church order has to say about reinstating office bearers in article 84 ...  (page 99 or so - I hope the link works, it did for me a while back, but for some reason not today)

of course, this assumes the leader resigned, or was suspended or deposed in the first place.


anyway, that's the tip of the tip of that iceberg,,,





No matter how charitable and godly priests may seem to those unfamiliar with Catholic beliefs,  the fact remains that priests embrace and teaching a different gospel.  This includes the forgiveness of sins through the confessional booth, praying for the dead;  prayers to various long-dead saints and especially to Mary, the mother of Jesus, Catholics revere as Mother of God. Priests teach that  that no one may assume to be saved and that to carelessly skip Sunday mass is a mortal sin that, unless pardon is obtained, paves the way to hell. Such are the faith errors of the Church of Rome that by God’s awesome grace I was enabled to walk away from and join the CRC.  

posted in: An Evangelizing Joy

The only response I would make, John, to your passionate defense of 'poor Joe' is, I've served 25 years as an Air force chaplain and during that time I've served directly under and/or with numerous Catholic Priests.  I've gotten to know several of them well as friends and colleagues.  I am certain the priests I know do not believe in a different gospel.  Secondly, I would ask if you would demand to rebaptize someone who requested membership in the CRC knowing that their baptism was done by a priest in a Catholic Church?  Or, should their baptism be recognized as lawful in the eyes of Christ and the church? And finally, are you familiar with the Vatican II documents?  They can serve to update your views of what you mention as the official teachings of the Catholic Church.   

posted in: An Evangelizing Joy

Curious I am, as to why this is more anabaptist than reformed.   Could you explain? 

John, I appreciate the idea of finding these celebration moments in worship that allow for testimony. We have a cultural context that thrives on storytelling, which creates a unique opportunity for us to celebrate the ways that our stories can tell part of God's story. Our elders and our youth discipleship team have been talking about "rites of passage" this year - where are those communal transition moments during which we can emphasize personal stories of God's grace at work among us. Profession of Faith would certainly be one of those. 

posted in: An Evangelizing Joy

I think it is unwise (and more anabaptist than reformed) to say that a person who has fallen is unsuitable to ever serve again in the same or a different capacity.  If that were the case, Jesus made a mistake reinstating Peter as lead apostle.  To say nothing of David who according to OT law should have been executed but was able to continue in his office.   Each case needs to be evaluated individually, rather than following rigid harsh rules.

Chris, I will add one after thought in terms of sharing throughout at least one event during the rest of the year.  When young people or older people make profession of faith, do not read the form in church.  Simply indicate that it was read in the council meeting, and that they agreed to it.  Instead, have each one give their personal testimony of why they chose at this time to publicly acknowledge their faith, and what their faith means to them, and what difference it will  make in their life.   This would add beauty, joy and grace to our communal worship in a way that we usually do not see. 

And for those not yet ready to make a formal "profession for membership", encourage some to make a personal testimony from time to time to share the growth in their knowledge and walk with God.  (using discretion)  From the heart.  This brings beauty and joy and witness in contrast to the stilted, formalized procedures and formalities, which leave doubt, a lack of edification,  or a lack of connection with the observers. 

posted in: An Evangelizing Joy

Chris, I thought I would check on CS Lewis perspective on joy.  For him, apparently joy was intense longing.   Perhaps that makes sense.   When we are really joyful, we have a longing for something better than we normally experience, which we sometimes see some glimpses in out-of-the-ordinary events.  Apparently, when he became a Christian, he no longer looked for joy, or it was no longer an issue for him, since his relationship with God replaced the feelings he had in looking for something he was missing. 

I think we need to distinguish between embracing joy, and rejoicing in Christ.  Embracing Christ.  Whether "joyful", pleasant, or unpleasant, Christ is Lord of our lives.   The joy He gives allows Paul and Silas to sing in prison, but, they were in prison.  The joy of God's grace allowed the reformers to publish bibles at the risk of their lives, and some paid with their lives.   Joy should not be our focus.   We could get joy from possessions, health, drugs, music, family.  Christ should be our focus.   That will give us the joy that lasts thru tinsel and terror, thru trial and error.  

Yes, we should celebrate Christ's victories through us by testifying and sharing.  We should rejoice in His victory in our singing,  in our prayers.  Even we should use some christian humor to highlight God's greatness contrasted to our not-greatness.  In our church, singing is a joyful event, usually.   Piano, violins, guitars, drums all add to the harmony of God's impact on our lives.  Potlucks, visiting, children's witness put smiles on our faces.   As Piper puts it, "God is most glorified in us when we are satisfied in Him."   Seek God's joy, and the rest will follow. 

posted in: An Evangelizing Joy

John & Joe, I recognize that both of you are expressing concern about my reference to Pope Francis and his recent exhortation. Let me invite you, if you are willing, to give some thought to the questions that I am raising in this post rather than simply critiquing the source that I used as a springboard.

From your perspectives, what are some tangible ways that our Reformed communities can celebrate with joy throughout the year? Our tradition has had a tendency to be characterized more by our concerns for what is not yet right than by our attention to celebrating what God has already done in and through Jesus Christ. But in Advent and Christmas, we seem to pull out all the stops in order to celebrate the joy of our salvation through church gatherings, worship services, etc. Practically speaking, what might it look like for our churches to be joyful throughout the year? From where you sit, how might a more joyful character among our churches impact our evangelistic witness among our neighbors, cities, etc.? 

posted in: An Evangelizing Joy

"It is sad... that they chose to condemn" says you.  Are you  then condemning the poor Joe who was formerly a RCath and has knowledge of what he speaks?   Are you wiser than he, that gives you the right to condemn him, or to condemn his statement?   The RCath as an official whole, condemns protestants as heretics and members of false churches  who might make it to heaven, by the skin of their non-RC teeth.  Pope Francis, in one of the first statements he made, indicated that praying to Mary was his priority.  There are evangelists of all stripes, and God can use them all.   But given the name we bear as a denomination, "Reformed", it is ironic to use an example from someone who represents the antithesis for our  name.   We were not born from this church as much as carved out, cast out,  and then reshaped.  While it is true the RCath church is not what it was during the reformation, it is also true that Joe's statement should be respected and understood.  I know other former Catholics who would say the same as Joe.  Isn't it sad that you would condemn him?  

posted in: An Evangelizing Joy

Pastor Dekker:

The compassion and understanding that permeates your posting confirms you have seen a lot of pastoral failings in your 35 1/2 years of ministry.   I am certain your family, colleagues and the angels in heaven rejoice that you (and many others) were able to stay true to your calling.  However, ...your responsible behaviour is the expected and normal behaviour of every human being, no matter what his/her calling is.

We wish to believe that these failings of people who are in responsiblei positions are the exception but each day the papers report on people who have broken the law, broken a trust, swindled investors out of money or repeatedly made public promises on a variety of issues that turn out to be flat out lying.     Unfortunately, this type of behaviour, both within and without the pulpit  will continue until  The Lord returns.

With respect to Mr. Ford,  he was elected by the people of Toronto to do a job for them and he is doing it.   Does he have personal failings? Yes.  Is his personal behaviour appalling  and disappointing?  Yes...but not to all.   Many people have said to me that they let their hair down every so often;  why  they ask, shouldn't the mayor do the same thing?   Should he resign?   The jury is still out on that one but as you indicate, no legal avenue exists to fire him.

In defense of Mr. Ford, I think his idol may be Mayor Hazel M, next door in Mississauga.   She claimed two or three years ago that her City is debt free and has " $750,000,000 in the kitty".  The City of Toronto on the other hand is a bloated beauracracy with significant debt.    Ron Ford set about to reduce redundancy and reduce debt and thereby made a number of enemies who would love to see him go.    That does not excuse his personal failings but it may explain why he is stil mayor and why his popularity with the people who elected him remains high.   


Ed Tigchelaar





Thank you for this, Rod.  This is beautiful.

Dave Vroege, Halifax

posted in: Fallow Month

I am not 100% sure I am following what you are trying to get at here but suffice it to say that as with all things, a big part of discipleship and of living for Jesus involves wisdom.   It goes without saying that in the case of Mt. 18 only a fool would think this is a simple, black-and-white formula that is one-size fits all and/or that if this "procedure" were followed letter for letter the outcome would always be the same one way or the other.   The Holy Spirit grants us also wisdom.  I don't know that there is a valid differentiation between "literal command" and "command in principle," however, and I can see a lot of potential mayhem issuing from attempting to categorize the commands--if someone is rude to you and you remind him that Jesus commands us to love one another, you would not want this person to reply, "Well that's just a general principle not a literal imperative and so in this case I believe I don't need to love you because . . ."

I think all the commands are "literal" in the sense that they point to Christian practices we are all called to do.   Does wisdom show us the nuances that differentiate the circumstances under which we carry these out?  Yes.  Also, wisdom might also be what leads to the insight that a certain situation--an abusive relationship or some such thing--is actually a sufficiently different and fraught situation that the circumstances Jesus envisioned in Mt. 18 really don't even apply here.  This is a different scenario altogether.   That wise approach can prevent people from manipulating Mt. 18 into a weapon with which to bludgeon someone EVERY time there is a dispute or argument or a perceive "sin" of one member against another.   Maybe things happen that fall outside the boundaries of the kind of situation Jesus had in mind in Mt. 18 and so some other text applies.

Just thinking out loud here . . .



Thanks Verlyn. I hear you about the authority relationship, and how that tends to make things a bit clearer. I'm afraid that then I start to wonder a bit about that though: Jesus had the clear intention of not just having an authority relationship with his disciples or his church. He made it very clear (and so did the other New Testament writers) that the spiritual reality was that God had made us, through Jesus, not only servants, sons and daughters and citizens of the kingdom (power relationships) but also that he was making us into friends, brothers and sisters, and co-heirs with Christ (equality). So, though there is a command  and authority relationship, I can't help but wonder whether that had more to do with the (relative) spiritual immaturity of his disiciples and how growing up into the fullness of Christ might clarify His commands for us.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting that "mature" Christians can do away with Christ's commands, but rather that they can obey them more fully as they submit themselves to Him-- that they can apply the principles in light of the commands to LOVE in a way that fulfills the intent more fully thans simply blindly going through "steps".

What do you think?

Thanks, Scott, but how specific is the MUST? Must we do each step precisely as outlined? Wouldn't that be just blind obedience in a pharaseeitical way? Shouldn't we obey the principles which lie behind these commands, and modify the specifics for varying circumstances? For example, this system Jesus lays out for us works very well when the two "brothers" are not in some kind of power-relationship. What if one person is "in-charge" of the other in some way? An adult and a child? Elder, congregation member? Pastor, congregant? The person who has been sinned against may simply not be able to go directly to the person who sinned. What if the scenario involves abuse? We wouldn't recommend that a victim of abuse go directly to their "brother" to talk about things first, would we?

Thank you both for your comments. I really respect what you have to say, but I have a couple more questions for you, then. I think maybe that I was not clear enough in my first post: but your thoughts have helped me clarify in my own mind what I'm really asking, so maybe I'll be able to be clearer the second time around.

I think truly that I shouldn't have made it about advice vs. commands, but rather about literal commands vs. commands in principle. I'm not sure that's even the right phraseology--there's probably some latin term that would cover it nicely. But what I mean is this: when a command is given it can be given in such a way that the specific, literal interpretation is what is truly meant with the command, it can also be given in such a way that the principles that underly the command are the true command, and the details may be altered in different circumstances.

For example, when I tell my son, "Stop poking your sister with a stick", there's a lot of context there and a great deal of background stuff that I've tried to teach him about being merciful and kind, and gentle, and loving to his sisters. What I'm really saying is, "Be nice to your sister (and doing it by not poking your sister with a stick)." The details about poking your sister with a stick are not the main point really. It's a bit of a stretch, but I can imagine a scenario where it would be important and/or good for him to poke her with a stick (I have a good imagination).

However, there are some commands for which there is no underlying principle. For example, when Jesus says that the two greatest laws are to 'Love the Lord your God,... and to love your neighbour as yourself', He gets at the heart of the law, and all the other laws are subject to those two.

Therefore, if I read Mt. 18 correctly, there is a specific sequence of events that should be followed in the case of a Christ-follower sinning against another Christ-follower, HOWEVER, circumstances may dictate that the law of LOVE would teach us to modify the specifics to meet the higher principle involved.

I don't think I knew that's what I was proposing in the beginning, so I'm very greatful for your feedback. I'd be even more greatful if you had still more feedback for me.... what do you think?

Thanks Chris,  I love the challenge for the church body as a community to be Christ among the world, in the neighborhood. The gospel story is OUR story encapsulating the true joy of the season.  I find that it is pure joy to take our congregation on a regular basis into the world we live to see people come alive as the gospel is proclaimed in its various forms.

Just as an aside, I believe God can speak truth to all of us even through the pope.  I also like what he said about capitalism. ;-)

posted in: An Evangelizing Joy

Many thanks, Chris, for your perceptive application within the CRC context of the Pope's exhortation.  The Holy Spirit infusing our congregations with joy-filled community, an evangelistically sensitive liturgy, and stories of God's grace transforming us and our neighbors from 'dead to alive in Christ' will profoundly impact the future of the CRC.  It is sad that the two brothers previously posting choose to condemn rather than respectfully listening and learning from the church out of which we were born. 

posted in: An Evangelizing Joy

It's unfortunate you used Pope F as an example.   I agree with Joe Serge that this is a poor example;   there are many better examples.   Going back to scripture, for example... the apostle Paul "I do/am all things in order to win others to Christ."  

posted in: An Evangelizing Joy

Thanks, Jim, for a well put argumentation that reflects what I've been thinking. I'm glad you put it "out there."


The joy of the Gospel is expressed by the believer not so much by the choice of praise songs,music and liturgy but rather in gratitude for Christ's saving work through Calvary's cross. Pope Francis doesn't get it. The Church of Rome teaches a different gospel. I know. I am a former Catholic. So please, let's not set our gaze on Rome for spiritual guidance but our Reformed doctrine. 

posted in: An Evangelizing Joy

Remember too that ordained clergy, if they live in a parsonage, have to pay social security taxes on the rental value of their homes--and they pay it at the individual level (i.e., 14% or something like that). If they get a housing allowance where they can purchase their own home, same thing. So neither a parsonage nor a housing allowance is a "free ride" for them. Especially those who live in a parsonage, who pay social security on the rental value of their home, end up retired with a mortgage or paying rent for an apartment for the first time in their lives.

And maybe I could throw this in the hopper. Clergy have the same numberof years of education as lawyers and doctors, and they have the same demands on their time. But I don't think their compensation is comparable in the least.

Hi, Daniel: I don't think the Greek language has any grammatical differentiation between "types" of imperatives: a verb is an imperative or it is not--I have never heard of strong or weak, urgent vs. common sense, command vs. good advice.  In the case of Mt. 18, you have to believe that Jesus is sketching flat out what life in the kingdom looks like and so whenever Jesus says something like that, it's not take-it-or-leave-it good advice or common sense but rather what you simply MUST do as a citizen of God's kingdom community.   My main concern with the imperative mood of late has centered on how we read the imperatives of the Gospels and particularly the imperatives in Paul and the other epistles.   There is far too much "good advice" preaching these days as well as a kind of nascent legalism that turns the Gospel from the Good News that it's all God and all Grace to the bad news that it's still mostly up to us to live the right way or else!   For Jesus but also for Paul, I take the imperatives not as saying "Become what you are not by behaving better so that God will love you and maybe save you on your merits."    Rather, Paul's imperatives are always post-baptism and so are a call to "Be who you are!"   That keeps the focus on God's Grace above all land keeps our Christian living as what (in good old Reformed fashion) it properly is: Gratitude.  

answer: in recognition of the public good they and their congregations perform.  If it weren't for pastors and churches helping the poor and needy, where would society be?  Who speaks at the senior's homes, has an open door for anyone from the community, listens to people in trouble, prays at the veterans memorial service, performs funerals for anyone who asks?  A pastor.   They perform a valuable social service usually at no cost and society recognizes this by giving them a tax break.  It is not ridiculous at all.

I think most congregations, ( finance committees), take that perk into consideration when working out compensation for pastors. Then there is the "entitlement issue" that comes with entrenched tax codes that naturally develope over time.

The real losers, if there are any, are the taxpayers 


Thank you, Jim.  Frankly, your posting almost leaves me (literally) speechless because my heart is so full. Yes the pressues on pastors (and other public leaders as well) are enormous.  And yes we only sometimes do a decent job of responding and following up when leaders fall.   God help us all.  The enormity of this challenge facing the church is daunting, and it's growing right along side the increasing demands on pastors in a time of big change in the Church.  Are we attending to preventative measures with urgency?  Are we committed to a healing process for all involved?   Can trust be restored?  You suggest there are limits to the extent we should assume the answer is Yes.  Jim, on the one hand I want to say that OF COURSE complete restoration is possible - even to the extent of return to public leadership.  On the other hand I feel the force of your cautionary word.  I know that even though a person can be forgiven, healed, restored, yet it makes sense to avoid situations that are filled with temptation.  Until I read this, I had always just assumed that full restoration always included at least the possibility of return to public leadership.  In fact you even leave open the option of "reinstatement as clergy".   So where you ended up surprised me.   But the bigger thing about your posting is this - how will the church deal in more Christ-like ways with leaders (not only clergy) who sin in public ways that betray their families and congregations and their Savior?  That seems like a terribly urgent question.

I think it is the same reason farmers and dairymen get subsidies as well as large oil companies.  They simply could not make a profit without it.


Tradition, Hal!  TRADITION!. 

You ask an interesting question, David. In summary, you are right that context plays a huge role in determining the force of an imperative. Look at the Lord's Prayer, which has a series of third person imperatives and then some second person imperatives. We do not "command" God to give us our daily bread, yet the imperative is used; we ask, plead, petition, pray.

But I think we can detect, in at least some contexts, clear clues. When a relationship is clearly an authority relationship, the command element is usually strong (father to children, as in parable of the two sons in Matt 21:28-30; God to us, as in the Great Commission). Now in Matthew 18, the speaker is Jesus, and the context has a couple of "truly I tell you" statements (18:18, 19). That would tend to suggest that Jesus in this section is not just giving relationship advice in 18:15-17; this is what he, as our Lord, expects us to do. 

Tthe Office of Pastor-Church Relations is available for conversation regarding this kind of question.  Please contact Jeanne Kallemeyn at for more information.

Thank you, Verlyn!

May I also shamelessly (no, shamefully, actually) suggest:

1. a book:

2. an article:

Dave Vroege, Halifax

Thanks John. I know productivity is an economic term, but I think it captures the idea I was trying to express. Thanks for the reminder of obedience, because that is the way we show our love for Jesus. 

Ryan, this morning I was reading from the passage in Matthew 7:21 that says there are many who will say "Lord, Lord" and yet will not enter heaven.   They prophesied, cast out demons, and performed miracles, and yet God will say, "why were you not obedient?  Get away from me!"  

Productivity is an economic term, but obedience is what God is asking for.   God makes us productive when we are obedient, not by the number of sermons, services, songs, miracles, conversions, healings, visits.   Our productivity will never replace our disobedience or our lack of repentance. 

However, I appreciate your practical suggestions about patience, hope, trusting in Jesus daily, sabbath, and focus, are very useful in the right context. 

Thank you for posting this, Jonathan! I liked that the page you referenced also links to the resources for Music and Visual arts on the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship website.

Hello Joshua,

Thank you for writing about mentoring.  I agree: mentoring is very important. I also have a mentor, and he's been a great support and blessing to me.  And I've been thinking more about mentoring others.  In fact, I attended the Global Leadership Summit this year (Calgary, AB site), and that was my big "take away": that mentoring the younger generation is crucial to local church health. Now I'm trying to figure out how to do that well.  One thing we've found as a church is that running Alpha has helped us to identify and mentor younger leaders.  I confess this is not what we set out to accomplish through Alpha, but it's been one of the blessed results.  Now to continue mentoring those young leaders when Alpha is done. . . That is the challenge and blessing.

Thank you,