Yesterday during our Sunday service, my wife led a time of singing and storytime for preschoolers in our church nursery. I took a short video of their story time about Noah and the ark.
Sent from my iPad
Rachel used AudioBoo today to describe two pictures she drew during worship at our church today.
This past Wednesday night, I had the pleasure and good fortune to attend John Gruel’s presentation “The Good Life: Vocation” at our church’s Wednesday night class offering time for adults. John used R. Paul Stevens’ book “The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective” as the basis for his reflective lesson. According to John, Stevens had wanted to call his book “The Abolition of the Laity,” but John stated he thought a better title would be “The Abolition of the Clergy.” John is sharing a two-part series on this book. MY THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS HERE ARE IN ALL CAPS. EVERYTHING IN LOWER CASE IS A PARAPHRASE OF HIS POINTS FROM HIS TALK AND HANDOUT/NOTES.
This book is theologically in line with the “missional church” movement, which John has studied in his doctoral program with Fuller Theological Seminary and often teaches about in our Wednesday night classes for adults. In the message, John mentioned the world “Allelon,” which means:
All members of the people of God belong to one another, minister to one another, need one another and contribute to the rich unity and ministry of the whole.
…to educate and encourage the church to become a people among whom God can live, as sign, symbol, and foretaste of his redeeming love and grace in their neighborhoods and the whole of society- ordinary women and men endeavoring to participate in Godâ€™s mission to reclaim and restore the whole of creation and to bear witness to the world of a new way of being human.
I didn’t bring my laptop to this class session, so I took rather copious notes by hand on the paper handout which John provided those in attendance. (Class learning sessions like this would be perfect for using a Netbook with a reasonably large-sized keyboard, but I don’t have one yet.) I found this presentation and discussion to be both interesting and personally relevant, as I think it provides excellent guidelines for how we should view the Protestant Reformation as “not over” and understand our need to act as members of the Church universal in our daily lives. In his teachings, Jesus did not distinguish between laity and clergy. The hierarchical church structures which have existed historically and continue to be maintained in varying forms today are not an inheritance of Jesus’ teaching, but rather of the Roman influence on the early church after Christianity was accepted by Constantine I and later mandated (upon pain of death) by other Roman Caesars.
Stevens’ thesis in his book and one to which John also ascribes is this: The Bible presents a theology of the people, for the people and by the people of God. Ordinary people should be able to understand “our” theology which is presented in the church. There are neither laypersons (laity) nor clergy in the New Testament, and it is potentially counterproductive to focus on the ministries and mission of the Church today as being carried out primarily by “the clergy” rather than by everyone who comprises the church throughout the world. This “us versus them” mentality is often counterproductive when members of the church as well as non-members look to formally ordained clergy to carry out acts of ministry rather than seeing us all as Jesus’ hands and feet empowered and equipped to do God’s work on earth.
This perspective does not discount or ignore the need for LEADERSHIP in the church, both historically and in today’s world, but does note that it was the Roman and worldly emphasis on hierarchy and position which brought the use and focus on “clergy” versus “layperson” roles in the church which we find commonly in virtually all Christian denominations today. The missional view is that we need to consider not only the life of the people gathered (ekklesia, or ‘the ones called out’) but also those dispersed in the world (diaspora) in the marketplace, government, professional offices, homes and schools.”
Unapplied theology is more speculative and theoretical. Missional theology seeks to be “beyond academic theology” and instead be practical and applicable, addressing REAL life issues everyday people can both understand and apply.
The New Testament vision of the people of God (laos) was and is ONE people comprised (miraculously) of Jews and Gentiles, men and women, rich and poor, slave and free, all being together as the chosen inheritance of God.
We must focus on right ways of LIVING and not just thinking
– we must strive for wisdom, and not merely knowledge
John has worked with others here in the Oklahoma medical community (he is a former orthopedic surgeon) to offer a “Spirituality in Medicine” course for both doctors and nurses
– so many “theological” issues and situations are faced regularly by medical professionals, yet many have not had any type of formal preparation to address and deal with these contexts
Our dependence on the clergy in the West traces back to the Dark Ages when monks preserved the church traditions
– in the Western church, traditional emphasis is VERY hierarchical
– the term “clergy” did not appear until the third century, and was simultaneous with the appearance of the word “laity”
– The Old Testament (OT) traditions were very hierarchical, established, and formal
– OT world: all the people were called to be God’s people, but only a few (prophets, priests, wise men, royalty) experienced a special call to leadership to God’s people
– in the NT world under the Lordship of Christ, formal leaders were universalized or abolished: the outpouring of the Spirit: the whole church becomes the new ministerium, a community of prophets, priests, royalty, serving God
The emergence of the Clergy arose largely because of three influences:
1- Imitation of the secular structures of the Greco-Roman world
— After Constantine, the Roman Empire permeated the Church rather than the Church permeating the Empire
2- Transference of the OT priesthood model to the leadership of the church (led to the role of priests and bishops, as well as the Pope in the Catholic church)
3- Popular piety elevated the Lord’s Supper to a mystery requiring priestly administration
— originally communion may have been more like a “potluck” experience
— eventually in some Catholic church traditions, the people were able to partake of the bread but only the priest was able to partake of the wine, it was reserved for him to do on behalf of the people who were not able/worthy to partake directly of it
— this model contrasts very sharply with the Jewish tradition of celebrating the Passover meal, which is delegated authority to the male head of each household
From the 4th to the 16th centuries the clergy-lay distinction deepened and become institutionalized
– clergy were (and still today are in many traditions) expected to vicariously “do ministry” on behalf of the church (for example, go visit people in the hospital)
– clerus meant “portion” (part of ministry)
– there wasn’t a Pope in Rome until Gregory in the 4th Century, when as the bishop of Rome he become the #1 church leader and it was asserted that his line went back to Peter who was “the first Pope”
I THINK IT IS SO RIDICULOUS THAT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ATTEMPTED AND STILL ATTEMPTS TO PORTRAY THAT APOSTOLIC LINE OF PAPAL SUCCESSION BACK TO PETER, WHEN THAT IS NOT AT ALL WHAT THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST ESTABLISHED OR WANTED TO ESTABLISH!
The Protestant Reformation was essentially incomplete in changing this model of a clergy-led church
St Jerome translated the NT into Latin in the 3rd Century, in the Eastern church they still used the Greek version for many years
In the NT the qualifications for leadership are all characteristics and gifts
Community is the only biblical way of relating leaders to the rest of the people: One God, One People
– One God: 3 persons
– One people, not two (clergy and laity)
– no individual members and no hierarchy of ministries
HOW SAD THAT AS FALLEN HUMANS, WE HAD TO IMPOSE THIS HIERARCHICAL VIEW AND PARADIGM ON THE CHURCH. THIS REMINDS ME OF SOME FEMINIST CRITIQUES OF PATRIARCHY I’VE READ IN THE PAST. IT ALSO MAKES THE ENTIRE SITUATION WITH “SAINTHOOD” SEEM RIDICULOUS AND HOPELESSLY COUNTERPRODUCTIVE IN TERMS OF THE REAL WORK OF THE CHURCH. ESTABLISHING SAINTS MAKES IT SEEM LIKE OUR ULTIMATE PURPOSE AS CHRISTIANS SHOULD BE TO STAND OUT AS INDIVIDUALS IN THE CHURCH AS THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN RECOGNIZED AS “SAINTS” DID, WHEN THE EXACT OPPOSITE IS TRUE: OUR ROLE IS TO SERVE AS MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH, LEADERS YET, BUT NOT LEADERS WHO WIN GLORY AND INDIVIDUAL RECOGNITION / ACCOLADES FOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND DEEDS.
We should be “one anothering” each other regularly in the Church
Celibacy was not a requirement for priests until the 6th century
In the Reformation, the priest was replaced by the pastor
– the sermon became emphasized over the sacrament of communion (in weekly services, as the purpose and focus of attending worship)
– the clothes of priests were replaced, when Reformed leaders become “pastors,” by the academic black gowns
A call is placed on all of us as Christians
– to belong to God: the call of discipleship
– to be God’s people in life: the call to holiness (to be set apart)
– to do God’s work: the call to service
The above are all “Christian vocations”
– personal / individual as well as corporate
Primary task of Adam and Eve before the fall: dwelling with and communing with God
1st thing in the book of Genesis that was not “good” – Adam being alone
In our world, work has become the defining experience of a person’s identity
THIS IS WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO TRY AND AVOID ASKING SOMEONE, WHEN YOU FIRST MEET THEM, “SO WHAT DO YOU DO?” ASKING THAT QUESTION TENDS TO IMPLY THAT THEIR VALUE AND YOUR JUDGEMENT OF THEIR VALUE IS INHERENTLY TIED INTO THE WAY THEY PRESENTLY EARN A LIVING.
the nature of work today has become more amorphous
Human work is a blessing and a curse
– SO WERE THERE WEEDS BEFORE GENESIS 3?!
Jesus is depicted as a worker (tekton: someone who works with their hands to make things) – a carpenter or stone mason
While the NT has no place for clergy as a separate category of believer, there are many references to leaders within God’s people
– a basic question of church leadership is: Should leadership be considered a function or an office
– the traditional view is to make it an office: clergy
– John’s view is that leadership should be a function
Interestingly and troublingly, a minister in the Presbyterian church can’t be a member of the church
– instead, pastors are considered members of a presbytery
1- Consider your home, neighborhood, and workplace as arenas for ministry exploring opportunities for discipleshiop, holiness and service in your everyday life
2- Think of the ways you distinguish between clergy and laity and examine them for validity
JOHN IS GOING TO CONTINUE THIS STUDY NEXT WEEK. I LOOK FORWARD TO IT! I THINK THE MISSIONAL FOCUS “IS” THE APPROPRIATE FOCUS WE SHOULD HAVE IN THE CHURCH TODAY, USING THE BIBLE AS OUR GUIDE.
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In his post “If Dr. King Had One Tweet To Share…” Scott Williams offered a challenge to postulate what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s tweet would be at this stage in our collective history. This was my response (exactly 140 characters btw.)
Maintain your focus on HIM, do not lose hope, we struggle together with HIS support for goals bigger than all of us -Love WILL overcome hate.
This December I helped my wife at our church record four different preschool students (ages 4 and 5) read the Christmas story from the second chapter of Luke’s gospel. Since these kids can’t read, I told them what to say in short phrases, and then edited out my own voice from the draft recordings we made.
Shelly took photos of all the preschoolers dressed up in their Nativity scene and Christmas story costumes, and today edited together the photos (in iMovie HD6) using the combined and edited Audacity file I created for her from the childrens’ recordings. Her final video is going to be shown Christmas Eve at our church’s 5 pm family service.
This was Shelly’s first iMovie to create by herself from start to finish. I’m quite proud of her! 🙂
I’m not sure which production I think is better, this one which is completely in the voices of the preschoolers, or last year’s video production which was a combination of her voice with the preschoolers. We certainly put more hours into last year’s video. I do love hearing scripture through the voices of children!
When I was recording these verses, read by children, I got “goose bumps” several times. Reading God’s Word and hearing God’s Word read aloud can be a powerful experience.
May God richly bless you and your family this holiday season, wherever you may be on our planet. What a blessing that God sent his only Son into our world to redeem us and allow us to know him intimately. Through the voices and perspectives of our children, I think we can learn a great deal about how we are best-advised to both approach the throne of God as well as the challenges of our everyday lives: With a simple and pure faith.
Matt Craven’s 4 year old son does an AMAZING job retelling the entire birth story of Jesus Christ in this 2 minute and 46 second YouTube video.
Wow! Retelling is a fantastic way of assessing comprenhension, and also a great way to cultivate oral communication skills. Great job, son of Matt! 🙂
Thanks to my wonderful wife for sharing this video with me tonight!
Today during my five hour car drive up to Kansas, I listened to a WGBH Forum Network podcast on the NOVA documentary The Bible’s Buried Secrets which aired this past week. As with several other NOVA specials in the past, this documentary is available entirely online for viewing, along with extra features which did not make it into the two hour TV documentary. Since I was not able to see this on November 18th, I’m going to be glad to watch the special sometime on my own schedule with members of my family at home in upcoming weeks.
One of the quotations which stood out most in the podcast for me was the following statement:
You can’t really inquire when you are dealing with fundamentalists.
This comment was made with respect to Christian fundamentalists, who the speaker (I think it was Dr. Lawrence E. Stager, professor, archaeology of Israel, Harvard) remembered from his childhood growing up in the midwestern United States. He was making a point that it is useless to try and suggest people should seek for the truth / inquire for more information and insight when those people are Christian “fundamentalists.”
I think it is VERY unfortunate when Christ-followers project the impression that they “know all the answers” and have all the mysteries of the world figured out. I am not a relativist or an adherent to postmodern philosophies, and I do believe in both the existence of Truth (what one of my college philosophy instructors used to call “Big T Truth”) and that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. I certainly would NOT consider myself “a fundamentalist,” however, if that definition means someone who is not continuing to search for understanding and truth, and acknowledging the limits of human understanding of divine mysteries.
I’m looking forward to watching this NOVA special in its entirety and discussing the multitude of issues it raises. I think Christians should be “seekers” of truth their entire lives, no matter how old or young they are. Based on the conversations in this WGBH Forum podcast, I think our family will have a lot to discuss after seeing it.
My thinking during this podcast was highly colored by the fact I’ve almost finished reading “How to Watch TV News: Revised Edition” by Neil Postman and Steve Powers. Certainly the idea that documentary news like this program is created and designed primarily with the goal of attracting viewers rather than pursuing the truth (which is a point made by Postman and Powers) comes through in the podcast discussion. The sharp time limits imposed by production budgets as well as the producer’s perceptions of what “trailer park America” wants and can cognitively handle were also discussed by the panelists in this podcast.
Often I think people get into trouble when they portray a group of people as having monolithic beliefs and perceptions, when in reality there is actually a great deal of diversity in beliefs, perceptions, as well as customs among members of that group. While I consider myself “a believer” in God and and his Son, Jesus Christ, I also very much consider myself “a seeker” for truth and increased understanding of many topics and issues, including Biblical archeology. I don’t feel threatened in the slightest by the suggestion that as humans, we should inquire more deeply for truth and knowledge, in the context of Biblical history or any other subject. It seems almost unbelievable that Galileo faced persecution and the threat of death by the Catholic Church in the 1500’s when he challenged its heliocentric view of the universe. I do not view the advances of science as correlating to zero-sum losses in the realms of faith and religion. I think it is wonderful to have opportunities to be appropriately challenged to think critically about what I believe and why I believe those things, and I suspect this NOVA special will provide more opportunities to “grapple” with ideas of both faith and history.
UPDATE 26 Dec 2014: This podcast is apparently no longer listed in iTunes, and the referenced Moodle server/site is offline. I updated, however, the direct MP3/audio links below to these recorded podcasts from 2008. I also updated the podcast feed.
I played podcast catch-up this evening and published the last two sessions of the five course adult class I taught this fall at our church titled, “Exploring the Biblical World via Google Earth.” These five episodes are available in a podcast feed and directly in the iTunes Store (for free, of course!)
I have also updated the Moodle course for this class with embedded flash-player links to each session recording.
Session1: Ur / Iraq
Session2: Egypt / Sinai
Session3: Judea / Israel / Palestine
Session4: Paul’s Missionary Journeys
Session5: Turkey / Anatolia
I have added audio recordings of my “Exploring the Biblical World Through Google Earth” classes as a podcast to our class Moodle website. So far we’ve had two classes, we’ll have three more in this particular Wednesday night series. The five weeks immediately following this class I’ll offer “Lifelong Learning via iTunes University,” which also has a Moodle course component hosted on the same server.
UPDATE: I’ve added embedded Flash player links to the Moodle page for our class podcast. (For info on how I did this, see my post “Embedding mp3 audio files with a free flash player in Moodle, a wiki or a blog.”)