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It’s no secret that ministry leadership can be lonely. So how do you enter into a mentoring relationship with someone you can trust? Here are 5 things I've learned along the way. 

November 21, 2016 0 0 comments
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Reading the gospel of Matthew took away some of my innocent look on how the Bible was compiled. I didn’t realize it was so messy, like digging into a family tree.

November 1, 2016 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

Loss comes to us when key people move away, when we realize a dream has died, or when we face health challenges. The book "Broken Hallelujahs" suggests three ways of dealing with loss. 

October 25, 2016 0 1 comments
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In Jesus’ world we find a religious, political and cultural soup mix. The broth is a potent mix of Roman, Greek and Jewish cultures. Did God use this culture to make the most of the gospel for Jesus sake?

October 16, 2016 0 0 comments
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Darleen Litson, a member of Four Corners CRC in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, tells the story of her call to leadership. What about you? Do you have a story about cultivating leadership? 

September 21, 2016 0 0 comments
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For some people, China and Chicago are worlds apart, but what links them together is an understanding that the church needs more and better leaders and a desire to equip leaders for its mission.

September 12, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Workshop or Training

Vocational Wayfinding is a two-part course that will equip participants to navigate the work-life journey, as well as provide tools to make decisions on how to go about the next phase in their careers.

September 1, 2016 0 0 comments
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Spending some time dwelling with these listening resources, as well as with Berger’s book, should pay rich dividends. As leaders, we do need to learn to ask more questions, tell less, and listen well. 

August 28, 2016 0 0 comments
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I felt sorry for these people who believed that they had to live and die this way. They seemed to have traded the "living for God" for living and dying to uphold their interpretation of the law of God.

August 22, 2016 0 1 comments
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A recent church service left me completely exhausted. Too often I have the same feeling at the end of a working day. How can one lead well in the midst of the noise and distraction? 

June 16, 2016 0 3 comments
Blog

Moses longs to be taught by God (humble) and dares to tell God how to behave (arrogant). He was himself before God and yet was called a man of God. Moses’ life shows these are not mutually exclusive.

June 13, 2016 0 0 comments
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Our personality is no longer an excuse nor a hindrance, but instead, it is a vehicle in the process of being conformed to the image of Christ.

May 22, 2016 0 2 comments
Discussion Topic

Churches are ready for the next generation to take on leadership roles as deacons, Sunday school teachers, and more. But is this happening? And if not, why?

May 9, 2016 0 7 comments
Discussion Topic

To prepare for the Gathering, participants were given some questions to spark their ideas on ministry and the local church. We thought it could be helpful to pass those questions on to YOU!

May 2, 2016 0 2 comments
Blog

Leadership was that scary monster under the bed for me. Thinking about telling others what to do would wake me up at night in a sweat. So how could a guy like me accept leadership?

May 1, 2016 0 0 comments
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Likely you have heard someone suggest that a certain point of view is correct because they make an appeal such as "I have a friend who..." Sometimes the word 'friend' is substituted by a family member, or a person featured in a video, or a person in a book. Of course the personal connection...

April 18, 2016 0 0 comments
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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
Discussion Topic

There are many leadership lessons to be learned in the story of the 1949 Mann Gulch in which 13 firefighters were killed and the story is well told by Norman Maclean in his book Young Men and Fire...

March 15, 2016 0 0 comments
Q&A

I am looking for a resource for Council members at our church to participate in that has a fun, team-building theme. 

January 27, 2016 0 1 comments
Blog

The National Gathering will bring together local ministry leaders for a time of inspiration, reflection on what God is doing in Canada and what God wants us to do next. 

January 19, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

In May 2016, churches in Canada will gather to connect and inspire the local church, regional missions, and denominational ministries at the Canadian National Gathering in Waterloo, ON. 

December 22, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

Youth and young adults have to begin to see that they are NOT the church of the future, they are the church of NOW. They need ownership in the ministries they will be asked to lead.

November 16, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Image

Check out this infographic (from Wake Forest) that provides strong traits on what it takes to be an influence not only in the church, but in the community as well.

September 23, 2015 0 0 comments
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I’m ready to go. I’m refreshed and ready but it doesn’t seem the church is ready. Everyone is still on “summer” mode. What do I do with August?  

August 17, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or eBook

I just finished what has got to be the best book on leadership I have read yet. Instead of a list of strategies, it was about how our relationship with God strengthens our own soul for leadership.

August 11, 2015 0 3 comments

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I appreciate Mulholland's insight.  In a world of "niche" spirituality, he urges us to not only appreciate how God has made us but also how we need to sometimes "play against type" in order to grow spiritually, venture into those areas that are naturally uncomfortable for us, where we feel the most vulnerable and not in control and therefore, find ourselves relying more on the Spirit then our own tendencies and strengths.  As a natural introvert, I've definitely found this to be true in those times when I've been called into extroversion.  

 

An interesting dovetail with this is Gordon Smith's work on conversion, his book Beginning Well, where he notes that moments of spiritual growth/continuing conversion often take place when we are exposed to a Christian tradition not our own.  

Love this post! I often forget how deeply personality type influences spiritual formation. My introverted nature often affects my willingness to participate in small groups and other group settings, but it has also allowed me to serve in other ways. It's so interesting to see how different personality types serve the various needs of a church. I love that God works through all personality types, and that he can also push us to grow and move outside our comfort zone too when needed.

Good review Angela, I also enjoyed the book and it is encouraging for personal spiritual growth.

Good questions, Staci. The position descriptions were shaped by the gifts of the young adults, and the needs of the congregation. For some, it meant continuing their education on issues surrounding immigration, cross-cultural and urban ministry by participating in trainings to become a workshop facilitator (i.e. Church Between Borders and the Dance of Racial Reconciliation). Most interns worked to raise awareness and educate about issues of justice in their church community by speaking to different church groups and planning intergenerational service projects. The mentors met with interns weekly, ideally. They were church elders, pastors, and ministry leaders--all people with experience ministering in the congregation who were able to support and encourage the interns as they served and learned.

I would hope that millenials, and all other age defined groups for that matter, predominantly serve outside of the institutional church.  This is not to say they shouldn't serve within the institutional church as well, but it needs to be understood that we serve (or should serve) in all that we do, and that message ought to be a core message of the (preaching and teaching and encouraging) institutional church to all its members.

I think the more the institutional church effectively teaches this Calvinist/Reformed/Kuyperian message, the more members will be convicted that all they do should be service to their Creator, and the more they are so convicted, the more they will connect to, and serve in, their institutional church, even if most of their service to their their Lord is done outside the institutional church.

Hi Judy: Thanks for the suggestion! I will definitely check it out. 

Have you read the book,"I hate religion,but I love Jesus"?I think it addresses these issues quite well.

  JonkerJudithBredeweg

Forgot to ask, what kind of leadership tasks or mentoring would be part of the paid internship? Sounds like an interesting model and I'd love to hear a bit more about how it would work!  

Awesome! Thanks for sharing, Shannon. I completely agree about giving youth ownership as early as possible. One of my best church experiences in high school was serving on the Pastor Search committee. I felt so honored to be included and was humbled to have my voice heard. I think the earlier we place youth in positions of church leadership, the more comfortable they will be when the opportunity comes up to step in to a role such as deacon.  

Thanks for posting this, Staci! You bring up a lot of really good questions for those of us who love the church, and want to see youth be an integral part of it. A few years ago, as I started work on a project for the denomination that wrestled with this very question (it was called LEAP), a colleague told me that we need to start with how we think and talk about youth in the church. "Youth are not the future of the church," he told me, "they are the church." It has struck me since then that this is where we need to start. When we have conversations in our congregations about increasing youth engagement, we tend to talk about them like they aren't already there. That couldn't be farther from the truth.

For the LEAP project, we did some research and found that young people returning from mission trips in high school and college would love to be plugged in at their church afterwards, but don't know how. Congregations want to increase their engagement, but they don't know how to do it, either. So we tested a model where young adults could serve as a paid intern in their churches for anywhere from 3-12 months. During this time, young people were equipped and encouraged to continue their learning, to grow under a mentor, and to challenge their congregation to grow in their engagement of mission, community development, and justice issues. 

We learned that both young adults and congregations appreciated this model. We are hoping to develop it into something that the denomination can offer small grants to congregations to try this model in their community. Stay tuned!

Beginning a community garden on the church grounds this spring. Inviting members of the community to garden a plot.

Persisted and endured:  multi-generational yearly serve project to Guatemala; partnership with local service agency (Love, INC) by hosting a clothing center and food pantry for Love INC clients on our campus; 8th grade school graduates serving for a week in June at a church in Northern MIchigan which arranges projects

Here is a list of them, we used the first one of the list. 

https://www.huddle.com/blog/team-building-activities/

also - interesting ones here in part two:

https://www.huddle.com/blog/team-building-exercises/

However, you can keep google it and see what else you find. 

Grace, Daniel 

 

Thanks! Yes, I see it is working now. Thanks again. 

Thanks for letting us know of the problem. I'm not sure why this particular video just stopped working. The file has been replaced and it's working now.  

Sorry about this - I will check with the folks at the Network to see what the problem is. Thank you!

I can't get this one to play. 

This sounds like a unique approach and different perspective on the quiet strength and faith that is needed to be a good leader. I'll have to check it out! Thanks for sharing.

A good book is Beyond the cosmos,  by Hugh Ross ..very good on extra .dimensions.

 

Naturalist

Exactly. The real leaders of every church are the ones doing spiritual grunt work rather than the ones telling the congregation and council what they ought to be doing. It's amazing how often that is misunderstood.

 

 ". . . found themselves relegated to spiritual grunt work . . . ."

"Spiritual grunt work" is the stuff the true saints of the church do, the stuff the rest of us don't want to do. Anyway, it isn't my place to tell the congregation and the council what I should be doing for them.

LOVE this post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the thoughts of other women, Elaine. 

Very interesting comment Cindy.  Thanks for adding your contribution to the dialogue.  It’s good to see a variety of responses from different vantage points.  My comments have not been in favor of this third wave movement that is getting a foothold and gaining some momentum in our CRC denomination.  It doesn’t bother me to discount a movement, because it seems less personal attacking a movement rather than a person.  So I really don’t want to disparage your personal experience.  That is your experience and it seems to bring meaning to your life and Christian experience.  So I apologize if I am hitting too close to home.  But I do feel experiences and testimonies like yours could help to clarify, what I see as a problem with this movement.

I realize that personal testimonies of having witnessed demon possession and having personally entered into battle with demons seems to add credence to this spiritual warfare perspective.  How can one argue against first hand experience?  But a first hand experience isn’t necessarily an objective viewpoint.

The mind is a tricky thing.  And a particular mind set can easily lead one (or many) to believe something is true when it likely is not be true.  It’s called deception or being deceived.  How does this work?  What might be a good example that comes close to home.  In my last response, I mentioned the witch hunts of the 15th and 16th centuries (the Salem witch hunts being most notable).  These witch hunts had their origin within Christianity and were based upon both Old and New Testament Scripture. Although there was an European precedent, in the U.S. it was the Puritan movement and churches that authorized and sanctioned these witch hunts.  As you may know, the Puritans were known for their very strict and puritanical life style. Life and living was a very serious matter.  The Puritans didn’t celebrate holidays. Play, even, by children was discouraged; toys were outlawed, especially dolls (that’s easy to understand why); children were put to work at a very early age. Fun for the sake of fun was strictly forbidden.  Drawing from the Bible, as their ultimate authority, joy was distinguished from fun.  Joy was permissible because joy is always directed toward God.  The angels who rejoiced in the birth of Jesus were expressing joy toward God, but were not there to have fun.  David, in the Old Testament, danced before and unto the Lord, but he was not dancing for the sake of fun.  David was not participating in a high school sock hop.  For the Puritans, as with many Christians, all of life was to be lived to the glory of God.  Anything that didn’t promote his glory was wrong and sinful. “Fun”, as opposed to “joy,” always turns in upon self.  The Bible nowhere promotes fun, but does promote joy.  So you can begin to see where the Puritans got this idea that “fun” was not just wrong, bad, or sinful, it was Satanic.  “Fun” was Satan’s imitation of “joy.”  And people who wanted fun in their lives were dabbling in Satanism or witchcraft.  The mother who wanted her children to experience some fun in their lives was in serious trouble.  And the mother who had a fit rage or went into depression because her children were not allowed to have fun gave the sure signs that she was possessed by the devil or by demons.  And she was dragged away from her Christian home and punished or burned for being a witch.  I”m sorry I can’t take longer to explain further.

This is just one example of how a Christian cultural perception influenced the behavior of an entire community.  And certain behaviors by individuals were sure signs of demon possession.  Did this perception of witch craft have Biblical support?  It certainly did.  Probably as much or more support than the Bible gives for this third wave movement that has come to the CRC and other Christian churches.  The preponderance of other religions (false religions) also give evidence of how a world and life view can affect whole communities of people. So I would say, think twice before jumping on this “third wave” wagon that is traveling through our denomination.  It may make some Biblical sense (like the witch craft of the Puritans) but is totally unreasonable and illogical.

If I may help to clarify, The Network currently has four main content types: Resource, Discussion Topic, Blog and Q&A. Each ministry section (e.g. Pastors, Safe Church, Classis) has a "Filter by Type" option on its main landing page. On The Network home page at http://network.crcna.org/ these content labels are quite visible and you'll see them to the left of the titles and/or under the picture thumbnails. In addition to "webinar recordings" like this one, we have over 40 other classifications of resources. I hope that's helpful to you as you navigate the site.

I am not of the Christian Reformed denomination; I work in the offices of another denomination and regularly check this network for useful resources.  I wasn't able to see the webinar on its original date and just now greatly appreciated the archived version. It sounds like some of the comments already posted come from the very type of worldview development the presenter describes, where, as scientific knowledge expands, we become somewhat arrogant in thinking we need less of the spiritual side. Be that as it may, I can personally attest that demons are active today, and that it is possible to invite them into our lives by yielding to temptations or creating situations where they feel welcomed.  I used to be an evening supervisor in a domestic violence shelter where many of the residents brought serious spiritual baggage with them.  Some of them were in the habit of watching extremely questionable material on television, especially while the supervisor was busy in the office or another area of the shelter. You could literally feel the movement of demonic forces in the shelter TV room, but I found that if I took my guitar or a CD player to work, those forces could be driven away with praise music lifting up the name of Jesus Christ.  Once, I actually surprised a demon in that room and it hid in an empty bedroom, pushing a bunk bed in front of the door to prevent my coming in.  No kidding--a bunk bed moved about two inches with no physical person in the room. I wedged the door open and commanded it to leave in Jesus' name, which it did. Please don't assume I was smoking something illegal at the time, LOL; I was one of those who thought everything could be explained by natural means until I began experiencing things like this while working in that environment. 

In another context, I am involved in occasionally leading worship for the meetings of an addiction recovery ministry.  I believe that people suffering from addictions are unfortunately all too familiar with the spirit world.  However, having experienced the dark side of spiritual involvement, many recovering addicts who accept Christ are very responsive to spiritual warfare in dealing with their situations.  They readily accept that angels are there to go to bat for them and the Holy Spirit is very present to help them.  Consequently, many experience miraculous provision and are awesome witnesses to others.

Demons are a very real and present threat, but we have authority over them in the name of Jesus, and we have the Holy Spirit to remind us when our personal activities are giving them cause for bothering us. Thank you for this webinar.

 

 

I doubt that the empiricist feels any compulsion to disprove the miracles of the multitude of religions.   A strict empiricist simply denies them because there is no empirical evidence to support them.  And if there is no support other than opinion or belief, why consider them.  It seems to be a matter for those who believe in a particular miracle or miracles in general to give proof, and not the other way around.  Believing something is true doesn’t make it true. When there is verifiable evidence, I imagine even the empiricist would admit validity.  

Of course, you realize there are a variety of shades of empiricism.  You seem to be talking about the stricter empiricist when talking about empiricism.  I haven’t placed myself in any such categories, but if I were to, I might feel closer to pragmatism which stresses practical consequences.  And I don’t really see much in the area of practicality when it comes to the spiritual warfare espoused by the third wave movement (Pentecostalism).  That’s especially true when we realize that the science of psychology, with a good track record, has tackled the problems associated with what neo-Pentecostals have associated with spiritual warfare.

A Frank Peretti fictional scheme of spiritual warfare may look fantastic on paper, but it’s fictional and doesn’t work in reality.  And the same is true of third wave spiritual warfare. It interesting that our ecumenical creeds don’t touch this topic, and what our confessions have to say is very scant.  And even what our confessions have to say doesn’t fit nicely into the paradigm of the third wave movement. This whole third wave movement is very recent and gets its impetus from a more recent form of Pentecostalism.  And it seems questionable.

Of course, I guess we could go back to the  witch hunts of the 17th century.  They, too, were part of a Christian religious movement (Puritans) that had no grounding in reality or truth.  That’s an example of something thought to be true (with religious grounding) among a segment of Christianity but in actuality belonged to an archaic mind set.  The same could be said for palm readers, sorcery, magicians and witchcraft.  Throughout history, but especially in early history, belief in magic and people possessing magical powers was common.  Even Pharaohs and kings claimed magical and divine powers.  This too, was part of a primitive or archaic way of considering reality.  Perhaps you don’t agree.  But very few political leaders today claim divine or magical powers or insight into reality that others don’t possess.  We’ve moved beyond the primitive cultural perceptions of reality that belong to a past culture. And we can still believe in God.  So yes, Jeff, the Bible was written under the umbrella of an archaic culture in many ways and what was seen was witnessed through the lens of that culture.  That’s similar to the Puritans truly believing that many in their communities were witches and possessed by demons and should be burned at the stake.

One other thing, Jeff.  CS Lewis said (in your quote) he doesn’t deny miracles performed outside of Christianity or even through other religions (pagans).  But I would imagine he (and you) would deny the miracles that confirm the truth of other religions, such as the angel Gabriel being the agent though whom God gave Mohamed the Koran, or the angel Moroni revealing the golden plates (the book of Mormon) to Joseph Smith, therefor making those writings the God inspired writings and therefor without error.  It’s easy to acknowledge miracles if there is no great consequence involved.  We, as Christians, believe, similar to the Muslims and Mormons, that our Scriptures are the inspired word of God and therefor absolutely true.  On what basis do you know that Christianity is the one true religion and that Christ is the only way to God?  And is the reason you give the same reason they would give for believing their religion is the one true faith?

 

It seems that the possible presence of the miraculous or supernatural in other religions is a greater threat to the empiricist that it is to the Christian. 

I think rather than painting all Christians with one brush, you'd have to admit for a wide variety of viewpoints on this subject even within conservative Christianity. For example, this quote from CS Lewis : "I do not think that it is the duty of the Christian apologist (as many sceptics suppose) to disprove all stories of the miraculous which fall outside the Christian records…I am in no way committed to the assertion that God has never worked miracles through and for Pagans.” 

But to return to the original question-- are the miraculous and supernatural elements of the New Testament accounts archaic, or simply not in line with a modernistic worldview?

CS Lewis can speak of a “chronological snobbery,” but Christians have their own form of snobbery.  Christians can speak of their religion as though it is the only valid religion in existence.  Christianity considers itself as the exclusive religion, and other religions do the same. Religions tend to be mutually exclusive, but none more than Christianity. That’s the height of snobbery.  So when it comes to the miracles of other religions (miracles that are central to their faith) we, as Christians, discount them as groundless, unrealistic or unreasonable. Just consider how we view the many so called miracles of the Mormon religion or the Islamic faith.  And, of course, their miracles are backed up in their Scriptures which are fully inspired by God, like our Scriptures.  So how can we claim, we’re right and you’re wrong?   But didn’t you say, Jeff, that Christianity at its core is irreducibly miraculous.   It would seem that Christians use the same principles, to discount the miracles of other religions (and therefor those religions themselves), that these so called modernists use to discount Christianity’s miracles.  But, all the while. we claim that our miracles (which are central to our religion) are valid and should not be called into question.

We think modern science is unreasonable to call into question Christian claims (such as the six day creation account).  This is another example of Christian arrogance.  Christianity is not the only religion that has miraculous religious creation accounts.  Are scientists suppose deal with all the differing religions one at time.  Why is it that Christians think that their view of a miraculous creation is the only valid account and only one capable of standing up to the science of today?  Isn’t this another example of our snobbery?

Or as Christians, we send our missionaries into Islamic countries in order to get Muslims to change religions, even when it may mean they will suffer terrible persecution.  Isn’t this part of our Christian arrogance?  Our religion is not just better than yours, but ours is the only true religion and your is a false religion.  “So change and suffer. You’ll be better off.”

From inside our box of Christianity, we don’t think we are arrogant or snobs.  But from the outside we are seen as the epitome of snobbery.   So it doesn’t really do much good for CS Lewis or other Christians to criticize when the mud is really on our own faces.

You are right Jeff, everything old is not necessarily bad or outdated.  But, at the same time, there is much that is old or very old that is archaic or primitive.  And this whole spiritual warfare movement represents a first century mentality or world view that is archaic.  The fact that there is no objective verification for it confirms it’s primitive nature.  I did like the movie, “Ghost Busters,” but I’m not ready to claim that it represents reality.

Roger,

Granted. It just seems that there is a sense of what CS Lewis would call "chronological snobbery" in your earlier comments, the thought that because something is old it is therefore bad or discredited. Simply because something is ancient doesn't therefore mean that is archaic. Has modernity progressed in some ways? Certainly, but at the same time what is termed " reasonable" according to modernity is also often very reductionistic. The resurrection may seem very unreasonable to a modern worldview, but that may be more a judgment on the worldview and not on the resurrection.

I'm sure we can debate this, but historic orthodox Christianity at its core seems to be irreducibly miraculous. If we remove the miraculous from it as simply archaic, I'm not sure what we' re left with.

Perhaps third wave Pentecostalism's view of spiritual warfare isn't the formulation or framework or language most in harmony with reformed theology. But there are formulations out there that don't neglect or entirely discount this area. That's another discussion, I think.

Hi Jeff Brower.  Hope you’re doing well.  I think that is your term - “strictly modernistic.”  I didn’t use it.  But of course, there are a lot of Christians (inside the CRC and outside) that understand the incarnation and resurrection as you do, but don’t buy into this spiritual warfare movement.  I think I would take exception to both words, “strictly” and “modernistic.”  If you are equating modern with reasonable, I would prefer reasonable, without the use of “strictly.”

 

Roger,

Can you interpret the incarnation and resurrection of Christ through this same strictly modernistic lens?  

 

Hi Jeff. There is no official format for “Network” articles that I know of.  It just seems that the large majority of articles on this site are short articles that take no more than fifteen minutes to read, some even less.  So when a one hour video turns up, it just seems out of character for the Network.  I don’t generally come to the Network to read or watch lengthy articles.  Of course, no one is forcing me to read any article, so I can be as selective as I wish.  The subject matter of your article did catch my attention.  Thanks for writing or video taping.

Yes Jeff, I am aware of what our denomination has done with “Third Wave Pentecostalism.”  Personally, I think it’s disappointing.  I apologize for sounding less than sensitive to this cause.  I know you are deeply involved in this thinking.  But, to me, it sounds so much like a dumbing down of Christianity.  It’s a regression of any intellectual advancements cultures have achieved. This represents a superstitious mentality that belongs in the dark ages, rather than in the twenty-first century.  Plus, it is not even verifiable.  It’s more a matter of opinion, and the subject matter for vampire and exorcism movies, but not reality.

I understand what you are saying about Jesus dealing with the demonic and Satan himself.  That’s the dilemma.  I’m of the opinion that our views of inerrancy and infallibility fall short in expressing an honest view of truth and reality.  The views that we hold to (of the Bible), in a large sense, bind us to a first century way of understanding life and reality.  They hog tie Christians into an archaic perspective, and bind us to a primitive and superstitious view of spiritual warfare.  Jesus was part of a first century culture.  He participated in that culture.  He dealt with people under the umbrella of an archaic culture and primitive superstitions.  For Jesus’ message to make sense in the first century he had to adapt to the culture he was part of.  He couldn’t come into the first century and live and preach as though he belonged to the 21st century.  If that was the case, he would have driven a Chevrolet rather than a mule.  But that would have made him a mismatch for his culture.  So instead he came into the first century world and brought a message of hope that was relevant under the umbrella of that world and its culture.  We have to be able to discern what belonged to the first century, and leave behind what doesn’t fit in the 21st.  And we can leave behind your notion of spiritual warfare and much of this third wave movement.

Is it any wonder that Christianity isn’t growing in Western culture?  When you add your views of spiritual warfare and third wave Pentecostalism, Christianity becomes all the more unbelievable and unrealistic to the world, at least to the world of reason.  I apologize, again, for being crass in responding to your article.  I think you mean well, but I do think you have seriously missed the boat.  Please don’t take offense.

Roger:

I appreciate you input. I must say I'm a bit confused about the material not fitting your article format. I wasn't aware that anyone had turned the webinar in for any type of article publication. Perhaps it happens automatically with all webinars. 

I assume that you are aware that the topic of Spiritual Warfare has been formally discussed within the CRCNA for a number of years and that in 2009 Synod approved the report of the "Third Wave Pentecostalism" study committee, which had an extensive section on spiritual warfare.

It is unfortunate that you were not able to attend the webinar, because it did focus on what seems to be your main issue of contention--worldview. You are clearly speaking from a western worldview, which is greatly impacted by scientific naturalism. However, by it's very definition, it doesn't not allow for the reality of that which is spiritual (supernatural, if you will) and, therefore, not limited to the analysis proffered by scientific naturalism. Those from a Reformed perspective have, for the most part, done a good job in being able to find a balance between a western and a biblical worldview, which are at times in conflict with each other; or at minimum, approach the world from differing perspectives, resulting in differing outcomes, responses, expectations, etc...worldview.

Since the Bible account seems to clearly demonstrate that Jesus spent a significant part of his ministry in dealing with the demonic (and at least one recorded direct encounter with Satan), it would seem that the presence of the demonic represents for than "deluded, superstitious first-century view of the world;" unless we are willing to count Jesus (God) among those so deluded.

Roger, I have a feeling I will not easily sway you from your convictions. I do invite you to view the webinar in its entirety, or better yet, read the book the Webinar series is based upon: "Straight Talk About Spiritual Warfare," publish by CRC Publications. It is technically currently out of print, but still available on line. I would assume it is also in Calvin's library since it was used as one of the texts in a CTS class for a time.

Thank you for your interaction. - J. Stam

Thanks Jeff for your article on spiritual warfare.  I looked at the handouts that you provided but did not watch the video.  A one hour video doesn’t seem to fit the format for Network articles.  I would have appreciated a nutshell version of the video, in print.  I did pick up a basic gist of what you may have been saying, plus I’ve done a small amount of reading on this spiritual warfare.

I personally do not see where this kind of teaching has any place in the CRC, let alone Christianity.  I think it lends itself to delusional and primitive thinking.  The leverage that you may have is that you can find some Biblical warrant for spiritual warfare.  But the world and life views of the first century were very primitive.  In Bible times, people didn’t look for answers to their maladies in natural laws and natural order, but rather in the spiritual order.  Bible times were pre-scientific age, pre-industrial age, and pre the age of reason or enlightenment.  Their life view was very limited and superstitious.  And the Bible authors wrote from within the cultural perceptions of their day which included this superstitious perception of life.  They were products of their culture and not products of logic or enlightenment or cultural growth and advancement.  This is the thinking that goes into your “spiritual warfare” mentality.  A regression to first century superstition. Plus, on top of being built on a first century world view, spiritual warfare has little or no objective verification.  It all seems to be a matter of emotional perception and opinion.

This thinking of yours may gain some foothold among the less developed societies of our world, but in more developed cultures it is more a matter of delusion.  Who really wants to go back to an age of first century superstition?   Thanks Jeff for this article.  We do need to know what others in our denomination are thinking.  For one, I hope the teaching that you are espousing does not catch on.

Esther, that exactly the type of scenario I would like to see come to life! The challenge is that right now neither pastors nor lay members get the training they need to make it successful. Paid staff can be a wonderful blessing, but they can also be a crutch if it means church members don't have the opportunity to lead in community.

 

What kind of lay leadership development resources would you like to see widely available? Bbooks? Webinars? Guides for establishing mentoring/discipleship relationships?

Hi Esther! 

Thanks for this thoughtful response. The role of lay leaders is HUGE in encouraging and sustaining a church. What a gift it is to have people who want to serve, such as the voluntary Worship Director you mentioned. Thanks for sharing!

 I have seen the pastor of a small church struggle with the weight of his ministry when because of lack of funds there is no other supportive staff to serve with him, to pray with or to share vision casting. The Council Is there (once a month) but much like Synod they have an agenda to follow and full time jobs to go back to the next morning. That makes for a very lonely staff meeting if you are the pastor and the only person in attendance. If we believe in the priesthood of all believers, why not develop a strong team of lay leaders? Meet together, pray together, vision cast, mentor them in their leadership role? As the article say "It is the lay leaders who will remain in the congregation after the pastor moves on to another church."  Currently I know a young person who is voluntarily doing the tasks of a Worship Director while the church seeks to hire someone "with the right pedigree". Why not mentor this person into the position as a voluntary staff ? Is the "priesthood of believers" more limited than we want to acknowledge?

Instead of the scenario where the pastor serves alone, he develops his lay leaders; serving  as a lead mentor in a group where they support each other in prayer, encouragement, (and a little troubleshooting) but mostly sharing excitement together about the small and the big ways God is working in the church. Wouldn't everyone benefit and God be glorified? Being more intentional about bringing lay leaders along together not only focus's more on building  each other up  but in the long term it builds a stronger foundation for the church as a whole. Paul said "make my joy complete by being like minded, having the same love, being one in the spirit and purpose."   One doesn't have to be "the loneliest number", it can mean a unified community serving with like purpose. God may have given you a community of lay people at your church instead of professionals; work with what you were given.

 

Marlin...Good questions. I know Faith Alive has Elder and Deacon Handbooks which are helpful in many ways. I myself learned about leadership through hardknocks, big mistakes, and lots of books. Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybles is a good one as is Leading From the Inside Out by Samuel Rima. One issue which needs to be looked at is the fact that the business culture has become so entrenched in our culture that it is hard to look at things otherwise. One big thing is that many churches use Quick Books for finances. Yet Quick Books lists profit and loss. A church isn't called to make a profit but to be one. Also look at how church budgets are laid out. They are generally laid out as what the item is (i.e. Sunday school curriculum) how much is budgeted and what the actual is. And the list goes on. What if the budget was listed not by just basic things but by what ministry it is part of. This shows that the priority isn't money but ministry. So instead of just listing Sunday school curriculum with outreach and the building fund, separate them into faith formation (Sunday school), The great commission (outreach) and hospitality (building fund). Just how you list things shows the priority we place on things and how we view it. If we shift from a business mindset which tends to manage things to a ministry mindset which tends to join God in mission, we can begin to change what our focus as the church is. My original draft was about 400 words longer than what is above. 

The installation/ordination of Elders and Deacons states the gifts needed and responsibilities for both offices. Yet these are largely ignored because people become focused on funding, on landscaping, on keeping people happy. This is now managing not ministry. Even just going through the charge to Elders and Deacons with your elders and deacons might help in basic training. Also reminding them that money is a tool to do ministry not the goal of ministry. Yes, lights need to stay on, heat needs to be pumped through vents, the pastor needs to be paid, etc., but these are all tools to do ministry not to goal of ministry. 

I would say that training begins by going back to the basics. When I was in football and the game went bad, we practiced in pads the next practice. This meant we went back to the fundamentals as the foundation of our practice and our next game. The best way to train is to go back to the fundamentals. Even if they've been an elder or deacon for decades, it never hurts to go back to the fundamentals and get a refresher course. You'd be amazed at how much people don't realize the importance of being a deacon outside of taking offerings and landscaping. Hope this answers some of your questions. Keep 'em comin

Joshua,

   I agree wholeheartedly! and I agree that training is the answer - the question is what training? How do we do the best we can in leading the church  - what does that look like in the face of a budget shortage, a lack of vision, a power struggle? What is the administrative role of the council?

  It seems our churches are floundering due to some systemic problem with our leadership structure.

There is some training and materials available for the elder shepherding role but I haven't found anything on administration and leadership.

Locally we have a monthly meeting of the area CRC council chairmen. It is apparent to all of us that there is much room for improving how we lead - but if there is no training or materials the only option seems to be 'take what we know and do our best' (which is the scenario you described in the article). Getting together and sharing experiences and 'best practices' is helpful but is still kind of the blind leading the blind. Often the result is abdicating our leadership role to the pastor which not only is a further time burden to him but often makes him the target when decisions are controversial

Any suggestions on leadership training for council members and chairmen and even future leaders would be very helpful.

Thanks for the bringing up the subject.

Gwyneth, I wonder if your statement is a bit too broad.   I mean where you say, one-size fits all obedience creates gaps or separations.  It seems to me there are times when that is true, and times when it does not apply.  If we say that murder is wrong, and hatred is murder, are you saying that only applies to some people and not to others?  Or that it is okay for some people to commit adultery while not okay for others?  Are there legitimate gaps and illegitimate gaps?  

On the other hand, I agree that the way we love our neighbor or our wife is legitimately different in many circumstances; one prefers roses, the other prefers candy or a kiss, the third prefers a shovelled sidewalk.  

Wouldn't it be so much easier if obedience looked the same every time? Easier, yes. Biblical, no. One-size fits all obedience is one of the ways I see Christians creating gaps that distance us from those with whom we belong. It requires much more devotion, stillness, and open-mindedness to discern what God is saying love looks like moment by moment, person by person, opportunity by opportunity. Sadly, I haven't lived this way through most of my moments, people and opportunities. But God is relentless in His pursuit of my heart. Praise be to God! There's a blessed, abundant-life alternative and I'm being woken up to the journey we've been on together for 39 years. Better late than never, right?! Grace abounds. To God be the glory.

Almost everyone thinks they are pleasing God....  some think they can please God without being obedient to him.  

Thanks for your comments, Alex. I agree entirely, as I tried to express in the posting, that these are traits all leaders are in various stages of developing, rather than a benchmark that must be met before being eligible to lead. I would love to see that kind of language seep into the way we talk about leadership opportunities in the church. Eligible candidates for leadership are not perfect, they will make mistakes, and we as a congregation commit to offering them the same grace we have received from our Heavenly Father. We are each on a journey of development as the Spirit forms us into who we were created to be and He uses the Body to support us in that process.

As to the the issue of leaders exiting a church, or even the denomination, and why they do that...That sounds like a great Discussion Topic to start here on The Network :-). I know that I have heard both praise of our strong 'denominational focus' from those who only have experience leading in other contexts, as well as hearing the burden of that 'interference' from those from inside and outside. At least two sides to every coin. Ah, what will it take to be one big happy family of God? Sigh.

 

Some thoughts

I've been working on a definition of the word Leadership and have settled on this summary.

"Leadership is the surrender, allegiance and subservience to the Lord Jesus Christ, whereby every activity of operation is to be a doxology to Him and an intentional representation of Him in the lives of others, as an example, for the glory of God."

It seems many frustrations that surround leadership concern what I term "result oriented leadership." Paul did say, "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me" (Colossians 1:28, 29). However, Paul knew that while we disciple (water) only "God can grow" (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7).

The Word establishes qualifications, so God requires elders to be able to teach-The great news; when we present the Word of God the Holy Spirit is the power source not my awesome presentation. God himself has promised that "his word will accomplish his purposes" (Isaiah 55:11). My responsibility is to study to show myself approved (2 Timothy 2:15) and then to apply the truth to my own living. One of the most profound teaching moments I experienced

was when a former Wheaton College President said, "One thing I have learned and that is when you sin, repent quickly." It seems the threshold for the ability to teach is meet when the persons life bears fruit and it is demonstrated in tangible ways in ones household and personal character. The body of knowledge threshold should be tested but if no fruit is evident then memorizing words is not adequate.

As for standard, "be Holy, as I am Holy" it will never be lowered for anyone, in fact we are assured to arrive (1 John 3:2; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:16)

Test Standard: Believer, "In Christ" then examining ones life under a microscope does a particular sin or sins have a sway or hold on your life.

I agree that the "bar is somewhat high for leadership staff in any church, but I see that as a goal rather than a qualification. 

However, I have seen many persons who served faithfully their terms in council/consistory then leave to attend other churches, not because of the high expectations, but I wonder if it has more to do with Denominational Chauvinism that comes into sharp focus when serving in these esteemed positions. Do they flee mostly to the larger mega churches where denomination focus is not as pronounced? How can the CRC address that?

As you rightly say, John, its hard to escape the scriptural importance of 'teaching' as part of leadership. Titus 2 uses the term over and over when describing the leadership role Titus is to play within his context. Being a teacher by nature and nurture I have often heard, "I could never do what you do," from parent volunteers in my classroom, VBS crew leaders, church members after a Children's Message, etc.. And it is true that that I have experienced individuals shying away from leadership opportunities because they felt they weren't 'good enough' at the teaching thing. I could go on and on about how the skills of being a good teacher can be taught and developed among our leaders, but I am more interested in hearing from you about your question. 

I would love you to unpack your question, "Do we agree with Scripture on this?". What has caused you to question our (CRC's?) agreement with this aspect of being a leader, specifically in elders? What have you experienced (or not experienced) with regards to the role of elders as teachers? 

I agree that there are all kinds of ways to teach.  And I agree that teaching does not mean being an expert science teacher, nor a theology prof.  Teaching should mean sharing the gospel with anyone, whether it is in a discipling relationship, an evangelism relationship, or simply defending faith, or contending for the gospel.  Every christian should be able to disciple another, and every parent to a child, but it seems the ability to teach means that they can explain and are eager to explain the gospel to others, whether friendly or foe.  

I agree that the ability to teach should be a requirement of an elder. I do think we have to be careful that we don't translate what we think of as "teacher" as what it means to be an elder. We tend to think of "teacher" in the same way that we think of our pastor teaching in a catechism class or Bible study. Or we think of a high school, college or university professor teaching a group of students. Being able to teach others in the role of elder is the capacity to make disciples who make disciples. This is more organic but still teaching.  An elder should be able to walk alongside someone in a discipling relationship where they are then capable of walking along someone else and discipling them in a discipling relationship? That's what it means to teach. There are organic structures and there are organized structures for teaching. The organized capacity to teach looks different.  I think it's appropriate to ask the question of someone nominated to be an elder, "Are you discipling someone now or have you discipled someone in the last year?" as evidence of the ability to teach. I think that this gets at what the article is trying to highlight. 

It would be interesting to see an explanation of what it means that elders should have the ability to teach others.  As scripture indicates is a required characteristic for elders.  Do we agree with scripture on this?

Thanks, Louis, for the encouragement. I've only been at this a short while and already the connections that have been made with those in our broader community are a strong motivator in continuing the work of adding resources and creating posts that inspire others to dialog about Leadership Development. Shalom.

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